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Questions Answered

Find the responses to questions that are frequently asked. The answers are available in three different formats:

  • Image
  • 60 second response
  • Detailed article

Send in your question to Bullying411@PACER.org.


How is bullying defined? – Bullying is behavior that hurts, harms, or humiliates a student, either physically or emotionally, and can happen while at school, in the community, or online. Those bullying often have more social or physical “power,” while those targeted have difficulty stopping the behavior. The behavior is often done with intent and typically repeated.

Students often describe bullying as when “someone makes you feel less about who you are as a person.”


 

Conflict vs. Bullying – Bullying is different from conflict.

  • Conflict is a disagreement or argument in which both sides express their views.
  • Bullying is negative behavior directed by someone exerting power and control over another person.

Bullying is done with a goal to hurt, harm, or humiliate. With bullying, there is often a power imbalance between those involved, with power defined as elevated social status, being physically larger, or as part of a group against an individual. Students who bully perceive their target as vulnerable in some way and often find satisfaction in harming them.

In normal conflict, children self-monitor their behavior. They read cues to know if lines are crossed, and then modify their behavior in response. Children guided by empathy usually realize they have hurt someone and will want to stop their negative behavior. On the other hand, children intending to cause harm and whose behavior goes beyond normal conflict responses might think, “Cool, I have more power. This is fun! Let’s see if I can break this kid!”


 

What is the difference between bullying and harassment? – Bullying and harassment are often used interchangeably when talking about hurtful or harmful behavior. They are very similar, but in terms of definition, there is an important difference.

Bullying and harassment are similar as they are both about:

  • power and control
  • actions that hurt or harm another person physically or emotionally
  • an imbalance of power between the target and the individual demonstrating the negative behavior
  • the target having difficulty stopping the action directed at them

The distinction between bullying and harassment is that when the bullying behavior directed at the target is also based on a protected class, that behavior is then defined as harassment. Protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, age, disability and national origin.


 

How does peer pressure impact bullying behavior? – Peer pressure occurs when a peer group or individual encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform to those of the influencing group or individual.

Peer pressure can impact bullying behavior both in positive and negative ways. For example, the influence can have negative effects if a peer group’s bullying behavior encourages others to laugh at someone. It can also be negative when the group views other individuals as not worthy to be part of their group. The impact of negative peer pressure can create environments in which individuals are intimidated to speak out on behalf of someone being hurt or harmed.

Peer pressure can also be positive and healthy. For example, when the peer group encourages kind and inclusive behavior, such as inviting others to join them at the lunch table or letting someone know that they care what is happening to them. The action of peers encouraging each other to reach out to those who are struggling can have a positive impact on the group and other individuals who want to speak out against bullying.


 

Can a friend be bullying me? – Friends will sometimes have bad days. Friends will sometimes disagree. Friends will sometimes hurt each other's feelings, have an argument, or simply need time away from one another. This is normal and can happen in any friendship, no matter how close. If you are experiencing treatment from a friend that hurts you and you have asked that friend to stop, but it still continues, then that is not friendship. That behavior could be bullying. Friendship behaviors do not include hurting someone on purpose or continually being mean even when asked to stop. A friend will change or be remorseful for her behavior if she finds out she's hurting you. If you aren't certain if what is happening is part of a normal friendship or if it is bullying, talk to an adult you trust and get help sorting out the relationship. And yes, it is okay (and the right thing to do) to ask for help.


 

Why use the term “bullying prevention” instead of “anti-bullying”? – PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center uses the term “bullying prevention” instead of “anti-bullying” to place the emphasis on a proactive approach and philosophy, framing bullying as an issue to which there is a solution. While the use of “anti” does appropriately indicate the concept of being against bullying, the focus on “prevention” recognizes that change is ultimately about shifting behavior and attitudes, which can happen through the positive approach of education, awareness, and action.