The Mental Health Impact of Bullying on Kids and Teens
One in five students report being bullied—and the impact is often felt into adulthood. So how can we help stop bullying in its tracks?
January 5, 2022
When people hear the word “bully,” they may think of a child being pushed around by another kid. Or they may think of someone being insulted by a peer, whether face-to-face or online.
Regardless of its shape and form, these experiences can be incredibly serious and often have lifelong effects. And while everyone cannot be forced to get along, there are steps we can all take to reduce bullying and make everyone feel more welcome.
Keep Reading To Learn
- How bullying can take different forms
- Why bullying impacts self-worth in kids and teens
- Where to find resources and help
What Is Bullying?
First, it’s important to recognize the difference between bullying and fighting, as they can sometimes look very similar. Fighting occurs between two people that have equal power, whether it’s strength, size, or intellect.
Bullying happens between someone who has more power and is more aggressive than their targeted person. A bully uses that power—whether it’s physical strength, being more popular, or knowing embarrassing information—to hurt or control the person they’re bullying.
The person who is being bullied may find it hard to defend themselves and may feel increasingly powerless against the person bullying them.
It can be difficult for parents or people in authoritative roles (teachers, coaches, bosses) to identify if someone is being bullied—or bullying someone else—because it often occurs out of their sight. That’s why it’s helpful for peers to know when and how to help if they see that someone’s being bullied.
Data shows that bullying comes in many forms, can happen anytime, and can take place online. Some of the most common forms of bullying include:
- Hitting or striking someone
- Kicking someone
- Shoving someone
- Intentionally tripping someone, causing them to fall (especially if they are carrying several items)
- Spitting on someone
- Threats of physical harm
- Name-calling, which can include racist, homophobic, or other offensive language
Although verbal bullying does not leave bruises, scrapes, or marks, it can still have a significant impact on someone’s mental health.
Bullying can also be based on impacting relationships with the recipient:
- Starting rumors about someone
- Intentionally excluding someone from an activity
- Giving the silent treatment
Relationship bullying may be especially harmful to children, as it can impair their social development, but all types of bullying can have adverse effects on mental health.