An Overview Of General Bullying Facts

Updated March 14, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Bullying Often Has Far-Reaching Impacts On All Involved

Bullying is defined as "unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance." Although this manner of ill conduct is generally thought to occur mainly in elementary, middle, and high school, people of all ages can be the perpetrators, witnesses, or victims of bullying. According to Do Something, over three million students are the targets of bullies in the United States. While both girls and boys have reported instances of bullying, the percentage of targeted girls is slightly higher than that of targeted boys.

The ascension of technology in the modern world has also created a new avenue for bullies to target their victims. Cyber or social media bullying occurs when people employ the use of the internet and various social media platforms to attack others. This can be done in a variety of forms, such as creating accounts purely for the sake of trolling; sending nasty messages; spreading untrue rumors; posting information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.; and posting embarrassing photographs or videos with the intention of humiliating someone.

The aftermath of both bullying and cyberbullying is devastating. Countless studies regarding the impacts of this mistreatment have been done. In the worst cases, victims of bullying have taken their own lives. Over the past few years, bullying and the problematic aspects associated with this ill conduct have become more mainstream. More and more individuals have spoken out and rightfully condemned the ceaseless mistreatment of others. However, there is still so much more work to be done.

Impacts Of Bullying

Believe it or not, bullying has a plethora of adverse impacts on all involved—the victim, the perpetrator, and the witnesses. Of course, Psycom explains that the strongest negative effects are inflicted upon the victim and the perpetrator. Bullying can have both short-term and long-term risks and devastating impacts. Granted, the following things can be overcome (or even prevented in many cases), however, doing so generally requires change or outside assistance.

On Victims 

Victims of bullying are instantly at risk of a litany of damaging emotional, mental, physical, and psychological ailments. Low self-esteem, overall shame, depression, anxiety, and social alienation are only the tip of the iceberg. Additional plights include poor quality of sleep, poor academic performance, bedwetting, altered eating habits, and more.

Unfortunately, the preceding ailments are only the short-term impacts associated with victims of bullying. People who are forced to endure bullying are also at risk of experiencing chronic depression, poor quality of health, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and actions, and difficulty with establishing relationships, trust, and friendships. Despite the dismal fate which seems to surround victims of bullying, the ailments above are not set in stone. Many people were bullied as children and have gone on to achieve greatness. In many cases, seeking help and having someone to confide in can help victims of bullying overcome their trauma and live rich, fulfilling lives.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

On Perpetrators 

Many individuals are under the impression that perpetrators of bullying never really suffer as a result of their ill conduct. While there may be a few bullies who have yet to reap the consequences of their actions, the majority of perpetrators of this behavior are at risk of a variety of adverse short-term and long-term impacts.

Perpetrators of bullying are likelier to abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in truancy, exhibit poor academic performance, and struggle to maintain healthy relationships and friendships. Many individuals would argue that these effects are simply karmic, consequential manifestations of their mistreatment of others. While this may be true, dismissing the bully is not the right answer. Understanding why certain people choose to mistreat other people is a huge part of combatting ill conduct and saving others from being on the receiving end of bullying.

Bullying Often Has Far-Reaching Impacts On All Involved

Individuals who partake in the mistreatment of others are extremely likely to take this behavior into their adulthood and futures. This often includes abusing their spouses, children, and people in their immediate circle. In addition to being prone to alcohol and drug abuse, bullies may exhibit antisocial behaviors and struggle to educate themselves or maintain employment.

If you or someone you know is or may be experiencing abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7, at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. Live chat is also available on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

On Witnesses 

There are many reasons why people who witness bullying do not speak out or stand up for the victim. Sometimes, they are afraid of becoming targets. In other cases, they simply don't care. One of the most common misconceptions about bullying is that witnesses and bystanders experience little to no adverse effects. However, Very Well Family explains that this isn't true.

Many people who witness the interactions between perpetrators and victims of bullying undergo a wide range of feelings and emotions. Some of the most common ones are uncertainty, fear, and guilt. Society often urges people to stand up for others, but this can be difficult. Children especially may understandably fear being on the receiving end of the bully's wrath. Sometimes, witnesses also worry that speaking up and confronting the perpetrator will make matters worse.

Despite the internal conflicts that are often engendered by the mistreatment of others, witnesses do have somewhat of an obligation to speak up. This doesn't necessarily mean that they should confront the bully face to face. Sometimes, this does make matters worse. Speaking up may mean reporting the occurrence to a teacher or principal; this may help witnesses to feel empowered and supportive of their bullied peers.

A degree of apprehension is understandable, but taking the right steps is imperative to ending bullying. Like it or not, witnesses and bystanders arguably have the most power to counteract the ill-treatment of others.

Combating Cyberbullying

One of the unique aspects of cyberbullying is that all of it is documented and can be traced. Even if perpetrators erased their posts, the right people and specialists who know what they're doing have the power to trace IP addresses and discover the names and addresses associated with the accounts. 

The Huffington Post has a variety of helpful solutions for individuals who find themselves on the receiving end of cyberbullying. First and foremost, victims of cyberbullying should document all occurrences; this means taking screenshots and saving them, preferably on Dropbox, iCloud, or other similar places. The temptation to simply erase the nasty posts or messages may be great, but documenting the behavior shows a pattern and can truly come in handy if additional steps need to be taken.

Blocking the cyberbullies is also another effective means of combating cyberbullying. Many people often fall into the trap of engaging or arguing with the perpetrator; rarely does this engender desirable outcomes. As a matter of fact, this is usually what most cyberbullies are hoping for. Conversing with people who employ the internet as a weapon to target others is a waste of time. Blocking and reporting the account is always more effective and productive. In some very extreme cases, cyberbullies will create multiple accounts for the sake of targeting their victims. This manner of behavior indicates a disturbing pathology of sorts and should certainly be screenshotted, documented, and stored in a safe place.

A Final Word

Bullying is a national epidemic. Thankfully, more and more people are studying this behavior, documenting its various causes and effects, and working to counteract the many adverse impacts. As the war against bullying continues, it is very important for victims of this ill conduct not to internalize the words or messages that are directed at them by their bullies. The behavior of perpetrators says more about themselves than it ever will about the individuals whom they have chosen to target.

Are you a victim, perpetrator, or bystander of bullying? Has bullying impacted your life in one form or another? If so, reaching out to a counselor or a therapist has been proven to be beneficial. Not only will this help to counteract the negative effects associated with bullying, but it can also help affected individuals to better their lives overall. Therapy can help perpetrators heal and address the underlying issues that are causing them to lash out at others. It can help victims overcome the wounds inflicted by their bullies and teach bystanders steps to take to counteract bullying moving forward.

Online therapy has helped many people work through issues stemming from bullying. Teens, in particular, gravitate to technology. Online treatment can help teens and adults cope with the fallout from bullying, whether victim, perpetrator, or witness.

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