Merck Manual

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Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2021| Content last modified Sep 2021
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What is bullying?

Bullying is hurting someone else through actions (like hitting someone or breaking their things) or words (teasing, harassing, or threatening). The bully may be bigger, stronger, or more popular than the victim.

Bullying can happen in many places, such as home, school, or at work. It can happen once or be repeated many times.

  • Both boys and girls can be bullies

  • Bullying can happen at any age, from preschool through adulthood

  • Many students are bullied through email, text messages, and social media (this is called cyberbullying)

  • Bullying or being bullied isn't a normal part of childhood

Sexting is when you use your cell phone to send sexual messages or photos to someone. Sexting can lead to bullying if someone wants to hurt or embarrass the person whose pictures or sexual messages were shared.

How can I tell if someone is being bullied?

People who are bullied may be moody or have:

  • Sadness

  • Embarrassment

  • Injuries

  • Anxiety

  • Poor self-esteem

A victim of bullying may be embarrassed to tell an adult. Teachers and parents often don't realize that a child is being bullied.

What should I do if I am bullied?

Bullying is wrong. If someone bullies you, you can:

  • Tell an adult

  • Walk away

  • Change your daily activity so you avoid the bully

  • Talk to a therapist or counselor

  • Pretend to ignore the bullying so the bully loses interest

If the bullying happens at school, tell school officials.

What should I do if I see someone else being bullied?

Don’t ignore the bullying. The most important thing to do when you see bullying is to address it right away.

If your child is bullied:

  • Tell school officials

  • Remind your child that bullying is never okay

  • Tell your child to try to ignore the bully

  • Talk to the bully’s parents (but don’t act angry at them and focus on the bad behavior of their child), and ask the bully to apologize and stop the bullying

  • Get your child counseling

Where can I find more information?

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Social Issues Affecting Children and Their Families
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