Bullying is a significant problem that is experienced worldwide (Cook et al., 2010; Demaray et al., 2016; Yahia et al., 2021).
This phenomenon affects millions of people each year, with an estimated 10–30% of students being involved in bullying (Cook et al., 2010), which has the potential for lasting, oppressive negative outcomes.
In fact, one in three children have experienced bullying within the past 30 days, which increases the risk of poor health, social and educational outcomes in childhood and adolescence (Armitage, 2021).
Further, bullying can potentially cause bodily harm, emotional distress, and deprivation of rights. And even witnessing bullying can negatively affect someone’s wellbeing (Chen et al., 2021).
Bullying requires a comprehensive response. It is a multi-faceted epidemic that has alarming consequences, and here we will look at how schools can better manage this challenging social problem using anti-bullying programs.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you and your students build healthy, life-enriching relationships.
This Article Contains:
- What Is Bullying in Schools? 5 Examples
- Anti-Bullying Policies in Schools
- Supporting Students and Preventing Bullying
- 5 Games & Activities for Anti-Bullying Programs
- 10 Ideas and Guidelines for Your Lessons
- 8 Best Questionnaires and Books
- 15 Bullying Videos for Students
- Training in Anti-Bullying Education
- Resources From PositivePsychology.com
- A Take-Home Message
What Is Bullying in Schools? 5 Examples
To understand bullying, it is critical to be able to define what bullying is. There is a distinct difference between harassment and bullying, as bullying is repeated behavior.
Bullying has been defined in many ways. Bullying was simply known as the hurtful action of a person to another person and has evolved into an even more specific phenomenon. A more specific definition is an unwanted aggressive action or repeated behavior that involves an imbalance of power (Ngussa & Mwema, 2021).
However, it is important to note that there is a difference between conflict and bullying. The treatment of an individual is considered bullying if it is pervasive and ongoing.
Bullying may be verbal, social, sexual, physical, racist, consist of threats and coercion, cause the loss of property and money, or lead to violence with lies (Mammadova, 2022). However, the following examples are in alignment with these four categories: physical, social, verbal, and property bullying (Peng et al., 2022). We would be remiss if we didn’t also mention cyberbullying, which is a newer form of bullying.
Physical bullying includes overt physical aggression and assault and may comprise pushing, kicking, punching, slapping, etc. (Armitage, 2021).
Example: Tanya shoves Nancy daily when Nancy doesn’t hand over her lunch money.
Social bullying, also known as relational bullying, is the deliberate and repetitive use of attitudes or words to make another person uncomfortable; control, humiliate, or isolate them; or damage their integrity, reputation, or self-esteem. This may also include excluding someone on purpose, telling others not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, or embarrassing someone in public.
Example: Kristi tells Tara that their friend Tracy still wets the bed and that she should no longer be friends with such a person.
Verbal bullying is characterized by direct verbal attacks that are highly personal. This type of bullying may include teasing, taunting, or threatening behavior directed at the victim’s appearance, abilities, family, culture, race, or religion (Armitage, 2021).
Example: Joshua creates a song about Trenton’s nose and sings it loudly in the hallways between classes.
Property bullying entails the physical harm, damage, and destruction of someone’s property (Chen et al., 2021).
Example: Robert snatched away Chad’s baseball glove, which was given to him by his grandfather. Robert tosses the glove in the mud and smashes it with his foot while taunting Chad.
Cyberbullying concerns pictures or messages sent online (Johansson & Englund, 2021). Although this is a newer type of bullying, with the rise of social media, it has the potential to be even more devastating.
Example: Sarah snaps an unflattering picture of Desiree and creates a meme about her weight. She sends this picture to everyone on her contact list, and this picture is now circulating at school.
Anti-Bullying Policies in Schools
Anti-bullying policies in schools vary; however, all schools that receive public funding are subjected to the federal laws that protect individuals from bullying and harassment in the United States.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects students discriminated against based on their race, color, or national origin. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) both prohibit discrimination based on disability.
Bullying reporting will be fundamental to preventing and addressing bullying. Anonymity should be kept in reporting, as victims need to feel safe enough to report the acts.
New Jersey has a very comprehensive bullying prevention system, including anonymous reporting and lead coordinators of a bullying task force.
Are anti-bullying programs effective? 2 Findings
While these policies are plentiful and appear solid, are they effective?
Regarding cyberbullying, Peng et al. (2022) conducted a study on an anti-bullying educational intervention implemented with junior high school students in China. The results showed positive changes in bullying-related awareness and a willingness to participate in bullying prevention activities.
Yahia et al. (2021) confirmed that physical education and sports classes play a positive role in reducing bullying among middle school students. Physical education helps to prepare students healthily, psychologically, and socially by assisting students in improving their mobility, physical, psychological, cognitive, social, and emotional abilities as well as by reducing day-to-day tensions.
Although anti-bullying programs appear to be effective, emphasis should be placed on “cultivating comprehensive, multi-tiered climates of acceptance and inclusion” (Lessard et al., 2022, p. 10).
Supporting Students and Preventing Bullying
It is important to inform students what bullying is and is not. Having a clear definition of bullying is critical for students to identify and report bullying.
Students should be taught explicitly what to do if they witness or are involved in bullying. Standing up to a bully, standing up for others who are bullied, and recognizing a bully are critical aspects of preventing bullying.
Deterring future bullying requires the creation of supportive and socially caring environmental foundations in the school and in all classrooms, as well as providing the necessary assistance to the individual and the family (Yahia et al., 2021).
School-wide models, such as a positive behavior support system, can help prevent some or most bullying, as they establish a climate of positive behavior in the school.
5 Games & Activities for Anti-Bullying Programs
Team building can help build a social support system to protect vulnerable students from bullying.
Further, it may encourage students to stick up for one of their peers who may be bullied. Games that promote team building include group jump rope, human knot, and group or partner scavenger hunts. Even more ideas for team building can be found on TeachingExpertise.
Buddy benches can help to reduce growing isolation among students in elementary school and cultivate an empathetic culture. A buddy bench is a designated bench where students may go to sit during recess if they are feeling lonely or have no one with whom to play. Students are taught that if they see someone sitting on the bench, they should invite the person to come play with them.
Comeback cards can be used to help prepare students for unwanted harassment and intimidation by introducing relevant vocabulary. Create your own to practice during role-play or purchase a set from the Anti-Bullying 101 podcast.
10 Ideas and Guidelines for Your Lessons
As an educator, it is critical to know that teachers are one of the most influential factors related to school bullying and can prevent this noxious phenomenon (Chen et al., 2021).
Teachers are on the front line of observing, and they have the opportunity to address these behaviors. Further, teachers should model kind treatment. Sarcasm directed at students and comments concerning other students should not be made in the presence of any student.
Stopbullying.gov provides many great resources for educators to use, as does the Girl Scouts of America, which uses a program called BFF (Be a Friend First).
3 Ideas for anti-bullying month
October is world and national anti-bullying month. During this month, schools and organizations aim to bring awareness to bullying by planning events or special activities.
October 10th is Unity Day. On this day, people across the United States wear orange as a show of support for students who have been bullied.
Pacer.org has a four-week activity kit for students that includes a teaching guide, student activity book, and posters. Teachers can join other schools and register their classrooms as a “Champion Against Bullying.”
5 Best ideas for group interventions
Interventions for students who bully
In leading a group intervention for students who bully, it may be helpful to address anger management. Teaching students the skills to handle strong emotions may prevent students from taking their anger out on their peers.
Group interventions for those who exhibit bullying behaviors should include empathy building. Teaching these students to build social connections with others and understand what others may be thinking and feeling may prevent these students from responding inappropriately in social situations.
Some bullies bully to mask low self-esteem. Although it may seem counterintuitive, in this case, self-esteem building would be beneficial.
Interventions for bullying victims
Like bullies, bullying victims may also suffer from low self-esteem; therefore, it is unsurprising that it is equally crucial to building victims’ self-esteem. Character building, particularly self-esteem and resiliency, could help to establish a barrier for bullying.
Skill building for victims, specifically in how to respond to bullying, can enable students who are being bullied to stand up for themselves. Having these skills may also empower the students to stick up for someone who is being bullied. Practicing verbal and physical responses to aggressive behavior should be the focus.
8 Best Questionnaires and Books
Before implementing an anti-bullying program, it is critical to administer a survey or questionnaire to determine what needs exist. It is also important to distribute these measurements to get a temperature check and determine if the program is effective. Many anti-bullying curricula may already have their own questionnaires; however, here are a few to get you started.
1. Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire
The Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire is a 40-item self-report measure that is designed for students in grades 3 to 12.
This questionnaire defines bullying and then requires respondents to rate items in terms of frequency (Olweus, 2006).
Find the questionnaire at ResearchGate.
QuestionPro has a Bullying Questionnaire that aims to prevent bullying, support stressed students, promote education, tackle harassment, demoralize bullying, save lives, assure campus safety, build parent confidence, and optimize learning outcomes.
Find the measurement template on the QuestionPro website after signing up for free.
3. Dragon and the Bully – Steve Herman
Dragon and the Bully is a lovable book that teaches kids not to bully.
This book may also provide the opportunity for helpful dialogue on bullying in general.
Find the book on Amazon.
4. Stick Up for Yourself – Gershen Kaufman and Lev Raphael
The Stick Up for Yourself books include:
- A Teacher’s Guide to Stick Up for Yourself! An 11-Session Course in Self-Esteem and Assertiveness for Kids
- Stick Up for Yourself! Every Kid’s Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem
These texts include real-life ideas and actionable strategies to help kids develop positive self-esteem that will enable them to stick up for themselves if faced with a bully.
This book can be likened to body armor for preventing and addressing bullying.
5. The Weird! Series – Erin Frankel
The Weird! Series is an excellent resource for demonstrating the various perspectives of bullying.
Weird! A Story About Dealing With Bullying in Schools is about Luisa simply being herself, yet being teased for it, causing her to withdraw.
Tough! A Story About How to Stop Bullying in Schools involves the perspective of the bully herself. Tough! follows Luisa as she experiences and combats the bullying and is assisted by teachers, classmates, parents, and a special friend who is featured in the next book.
Dare! chronicles Jayla as she helps her friend Luisa stand up to her bully.
Find the books on Amazon.
15 Bullying Videos for Students
Stop Bullying Now by Jack Hartmann is an excellent video to begin your lesson on bullying and get students excited about the upcoming anti-bullying lesson.
StopBullying.gov provides several videos conducive to lessons on bullying. There are videos for younger students and older students.
The videos geared toward older students are also accompanied by questions to review following the video.
Training in Anti-Bullying Education
StopBullying.gov offers free resources for training, including training programs for educators and school bus drivers, tips on organizing community events, and strategies for working with stakeholders.
The California Department of Education provides a comprehensive list of training models, courses, websites, publications, and blogs.
The Meadows provides a 1.5-hour digital seminar where mental health practitioners have the opportunity to earn continuing education credits. For a fee, sign up for the seminar.
Resources From PositivePsychology.com
After reading this article, you may have realized that you are experiencing bullying. Incivility is not uncommon in some workplaces, and you may experience the phenomenon of bullying as an adult. Bullying in the Workplace: 24 Examples and Ideas for Supporting Adults is an excellent article to identify and provide ideas to prevent bullying.
Team building may be a strategy to employ in the classroom to prevent bullying. Not only would it help to foster relationships among the students, but it may also encourage students to look out for one another when outside of the classroom.
Here is a list of effective team-building exercises to try in your classroom:
- Creating Shapes Exercise
- Getting to Know One Another Exercise
- Human Typewriter
- Making Eye Contact Exercise
- True and False Exercise
The following activities not only encourage team building, but also highlight resiliency, which is critical in preventing and addressing bullying.
A Take-Home Message
Bullying is a phenomenon that can have dire consequences.
For children today, bullying is even more of an issue because of technology. Twenty years ago, someone teased for their weight may have only experienced verbal bullying. Today, a picture or video can go viral and be spread to a much wider audience. Images can remain in existence forever and cause severe psychological damage.
Bullying could result from social learning. For example, a child may experience bullying themselves or may witness bullying in their home. It is imperative that we try to stop the cycle because a victim can become a bully to a more vulnerable peer.
It is critical to address bullying, and we hope this selection of resources, tips, and websites will empower you to make a difference in your classroom.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free.
- Armitage, R. (2021). Bullying in children: Impact on child health. BMJ Paediatrics Open, 5(1).
- Chen, M., Gao, S., & Jin, Y. (2021). Does teachers’ involvement affect the extent of school bullying? In Z. Tong & J. Yan (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2021 International Conference on Education, Language and Art (ICELA 2021) (pp. 870–875). Atlantis Press.
- Cook, C. R., Williams, K. R., Guerra, N. G., Kim, T. E., & Sadek, S. (2010). Predictors of bullying and victimization in childhood and adolescence: A meta-analytic investigation. School Psychology Quarterly, 25, 65–83.
- Demaray, M. K., Summers, K. H., Jenkins, L. N., & Becker, L. D. (2016). Bullying Participant Behaviors Questionnaire (BPBQ): Establishing a reliable and valid measure. Journal of School Violence, 15(2), 158–188.
- Frankel, E. (2012). Dare! Free Spirit.
- Frankel, E. (2012). Tough! Free Spirit.
- Frankel, E. (2012). Weird! Free Spirit.
- Herman, S. (2018). Dragon and the bully. DG Books.
- Johansson, S., & Englund, G. (2021). Cyberbullying and its relationship with physical, verbal, and relational bullying: A structural equation modeling approach. Educational Psychology, 41(3), 320–337.
- Kaufman, G., & Raphael L. (2019). Stick up for yourself! Every kid’s guide to personal power and positive self-esteem (3rd ed.). Free Spirit.
- Kaufman, G., & Raphael, L. (2019). A teacher’s guide to stick up for yourself. Free Spirit.
- Lessard, L. M., Watson, R. J., Schacter, H. L., Wheldon, C. W., & Puhl, R. M. (2022). Weight enumeration in United States anti-bullying laws: Associations with rates and risks of weight-based bullying among sexual and gender minority adolescents. Journal of Public Health Policy, 43(1), 27–39.
- Mammadova, M. (2022). Causes and types of bullying. Journal of Psychology and Pedagogy Research in Modern Realities, 1(1).
- Ngussa, B. M., & Mwema, N. J. (2021). Correlation between bullying and students’ attitude toward learning: A case of secondary schools in Tarime District, Tanzania. International Forum Journal, 24(1), 129–146.
- Olweus, D. (2006). Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire (OBVQ) [Database record]. APA PsycTests.
- Peng, Z., Li, L., Su, X., & Lu, Y. (2022). A pilot intervention study on bullying prevention among junior high school students in Shantou, China. BMC Public Health, 22(1), 1-9.
- Yahia, B., Mohamed, R., & Belkheir, H. (2021). The role of physical education and sports class in reducing the phenomenon of school bullying among middle school. Sport System Journal, 8(2), 258–270.