What is bullying?

Bullying is a serious societal issue that can have long-lasting effects on both the victim and the bully. Recognizing and knowing how to address bullying is the first step to prevention. Here are some of the specifics about what bullying entails, and what makes it different from typical childhood “growing pains”:

Bullying is any kind of physical or verbal abuse that:

  • happens more than once
  • involves an imbalance of power (the victim is unable to, or afraid to, defend him/herself)
  • is done on purpose, with an intent to cause harm

It can take many different forms, including:

  • physical attacks (for example, shoving into lockers, punching or kicking)
  • verbal attacks (calling names, making cruel remarks about someone, teasing, making threats)
  • social attacks (spreading rumors, sabotaging friendships or deliberately excluding others)
  • online attacks, or cyberbullying (texting, emailing or posting on social media anything that is cruel, untrue or otherwise harmful about a person)

How common is bullying?

Estimates vary on the percentage of students who have been victims of bullying. However, there is no doubt that the statistics are sobering.

  • About one out of every three students (28%) report that they have been bullied at school or cyber bullied in the past year (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014).
  • About one out of every five (19.6%) High School students in the US say they were bullied at school in 2013 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
  • In Boston, 38.8% of Middle School students say they were bullied on school property in 2013 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Approximately 160,000 U.S. students miss school each day because they are being bullied (National Education Association).
  • 42 percent of children have been cyberbullied and 53 percent admit to cyberbullying someone else (i-SAFE Inc).
  • Nine in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students have experienced some form of bullying at school. (It Gets Better Campaign and Stop Bullying Now!)

How we care for children who are bullied

Our Boston Children’s Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships (BCHNP) has clinicians in seven schools across Boston tackling bullying directly where it is most likely to occur. BCHNP provides a range of services including on-site consultations to teachers and administrators, crisis interventions, individual counseling and evidence-based violence prevention groups to help promote peaceful school environments.

BACPAC (Bullying And Cyberbullying Prevention & Advocacy Collaborative) is a groundbreaking collaborative that operates a clinic for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders (including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders) who are being bullied, or are involved in bullying others.