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Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include: an imbalance of power and repetition. Bullying includes actions like making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

The following information includes tips on bullying for three age groups: school-aged children, middle school children and teenagers. It may be helpful to use this information to start a conversation with your children about bullying!


School-Aged Children

The following are suggestions for starting conversations with your child about friendships and being bullied:

  • Tell me about your friends at school. Do you have a special friend or two in your class?
    • Who do you spend time with at recess?
    • How about at lunchtime? Do you sit with any special friends?
    • What about on the bus? Do you sit with anyone special?
  • Do you ever feel lonely at school or left out of activities by kids at school?
    • Tell me about when this happens.
    • How do you feel?
    • Have you ever talked with a teacher or friends about feeling left out? If so, what suggestions did they have?
  • Do kids at school (or on the bus) every bully you?
    • Do kids ever call you mean names, or tease you?
    • Have kids ever bullied you by hitting or pushing you or other things like that?
    • Have kids ever bullied you in other ways at school?
    • Have you ever been scared to go to school because you were afraid of being bullied?
  • If a child indicates that they are or have been bullied:
    • How often has it happened?
    • Is the bullying still going on?
    • Where has the bullying taken place?
    • Who has done the bullying? (boys/girls, older kids?)
    • Tell me how you felt when you were bullied.
    • Did you talk with an adult at school or a friend about being bullied?

Middle School Children

How to handle a bully – tips parents can discuss with their 5th-8th graders:

  • Ignore – know when to move away
  • Avoid – know when to stay clear
  • Use humor – make a joke or say something funny
  • Be assertive –“get a life” or “leave me alone.” Then move away
  • Recruit a friend – having a friend is one of the most powerful defenses
  • Talk to other targets – strength in numbers
  • Seek out friends – build friendships with trustworthy peers
  • Be a friend – be helping others when they need help, they may come to your rescue when you need help
  • Act strong – even though you may not feel strong
  • Don’t look down – stand up straight and walk with confidence
  • Try talking quietly – sometimes a soft voice can de-escalate a situation
  • Ask for help – tell a supportive friend, counselor, teacher, parent, coach, etc. Adults have a responsibility to keep kids safe! There are many adults who want to help.
  • Take action now! – don’t just hope it will stop
  • Don’t respond with violence! – this only makes the situation worse, risks your safety and can have serious consequences
  • No one deserves to be bullied! – Sometimes both targets and bullies have problems, but that does not mean that they should be hurt or humiliated. They should be helped!


Teens get abused, harassed and bullied in the same manner that other age groups do, but additionally get targeted through technology in many ways like:

  • Having their social networking account used without permission
  • Being sent messages to engage in sexual acts they do not want
  • Being pressured into sending provocative images
  • Receiving messages that make them feel unsafe
  • Someone posting an embarrassing photo of them online
  • Having something nasty written about them on the internet
  • Being made afraid when they did not respond to texts
  • Had a video taken of them and sent without permission

And there may be additional ways that teens can be bullied through the internet. Few victims seek help or report being abused and when they do, they are more likely to go to friends. While teens may be bullied/abused/harassed online, technology can also provide effective solutions. The internet, social media, etc. can be used as a tool to educate, spread the word about where to get help, and give both victims and witnesses a safe place to report abuse.

It is important to raise awareness of different types of abuse, bullying and harassment and the importance of seeking help when something is happening. Talk with your teens about blocking screen names, applying filters, and using other protective measures to prevent online abuse. Parents should talk to their teens about the nature and the content of messages they send and receive.

Additional Information:

Urban Institute: Technology, Teen Dating Violence and Abuse, and Bullying
Kids Health: Helping Kids Deal with Bullies
APA: Bullying – How Parents, Teachers, and Kids can Take Action to Prevent Bullying

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