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What Kids Say About: Bullying

If you have been bullied, you know how bad it feels. But you might not know how many other kids have felt exactly the same way.

We were wondering what kids thought about this tough topic so we asked 1,229 boys and girls to answer some questions about bullying. Nearly half of them said they had been bullied before. Some said it was happening every day. Others said it only happened once in a while. Here's how the group answered:

How often have you been bullied?

  • every day (8%)
  • every week, but not every day (7%)
  • once in a while, but not every week (33%)
  • never (52%)

The KidsPoll also asked how many of these kids were bullies themselves. Most of them (58%) said they never bullied others, but the rest said that they did.

  • 22% said they bullied others once in a while
  • 5% said they bullied others every week
  • 15% said they bullied others every day

As you have probably guessed, some kids said they were both bullies and the victims of bullies. Why is that? Well, some kids learn to bully because they have been subjected to mean, unfair treatment themselves — by others or by their families. That's sad, but it's no excuse. Everyone can choose to act in new and better ways. It's never too late.

Most kids know what bullying is. It's being mean and hurtful toward someone else, often when that person has trouble defending himself or herself. The bully gets satisfaction (feels good) when he or she gets a reaction out of the person being bullied. Like if a bully tells a kid, "You're ugly!" and the kid cries and runs away, that's satisfaction for the bully.

It can be hard for kids to know what to do if a bully bothers them. About half of the kids said they fight back. There are a lot of problems with this solution. First, one or both of the kids could get hurt. Unlike on TV, where actors are just pretending to fight, when kids punch, kick, and push each other, they can get real injuries, like bruises, cuts, and broken bones.

Fighting is also against the rules (both in and out of school), so the two kids could get in trouble even if the bully started the whole thing. The most important reason not to fight is that violence isn't a good way to solve problems. The bully still gets the satisfaction of seeing the picked-on kid get really upset.

The Good News

But the good news is that more than half of the kids said they did something other than fight. They said they:

  • talk to an adult (25%)
  • just walk away and do nothing (20%)
  • try to talk to the bully (8%)

There are two keys to solving bullying:

  1. Kids should tell adults when bullying is happening to them, a friend, or a classmate.
  2. Adults should take action to prevent bullying and discipline kids who are bullies.

Grownups are important because they can discipline kids who are bullies, help kids who have been bullied to build their confidence and strength, and help kids who witness bullying to use their power to change things for the better.

Without cooperation between kids and grownups, bullying can be a big problem that doesn't get better. And when no one does anything, the bullied kid can feel worse and worse. In fact, 14% of the kids surveyed said being bullied can make them afraid to go to school.

So what do kids do when they see someone being bullied? Well, too many of them do nothing (16%) or join in (20%). But the rest of the kids are on the right track. They said they would say or do something to try and stop it (41%) or tell someone who could help (23%).

When kids tell an adult about a bully, it's a way of saying that bullying is not cool. Most kids (72%) already know this and said bullies are usually sort of un-cool or very un-cool. But 28% of kids said bullies are either sort of cool or very cool.

Don't let bullies get this idea at your school. Kids can support each other by letting a bully know that treating others this way isn't cool or popular.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2010

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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