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Isn’t bullying just a “normal” part of growing up?

60-second answer

For years, bullying had been referred to as a “normal part of childhood,” as it was such a common experience. So often, the reaction was that some kids simply had to endure bullying as a part of childhood, and the frequent response was that they should just ignore it. But there is nothing natural about the experience of being bullied. Bullying has serious consequences for a student’s sense of safety and well-being. Areas of concern for the child include education, health, and safety. Intentional, repeated, physical, or emotional aggression toward others should never be tolerated as a normal part of childhood.


Bullying has long been considered a normal part of childhood. Our society has viewed it as acceptable behavior because it is such a common experience for students. This, as well as other common responses such as “kids will be kids” or “it’s only teasing,” have perpetuated bullying behavior, creating norms that it is a tolerable behavior in schools and communities. Yet it’s hard to support these common views when we examine research about the short- and long-term damage caused by bullying.

The three main areas of concern of bullying behavior include education, health, and safety. Bullying can negatively impact a child’s access to education, and lead to school avoidance, higher rates of absenteeism, and decrease in grades. When students experience bullying at school or online, it impacts their ability to concentrate in the classroom as well as a loss of interest in academic achievement. All of these consequences can eventually lead to an increase in dropout rates.

Bullying can also lead to physical and mental health problems, including headaches, stomachaches, and sleeping problems. These physical symptoms may be real (coming from lack of sleep or anxiety) or used as an excuse to miss school. Mental health problems can include depression, fear, or anxiety. Children may be worried about day-to-day activities when they experience bullying, feeling as if they deserve the bullying and that it’s their fault.

Bullying also impacts a student’s sense of well-being. This includes self-isolation, increased aggression, retaliation, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts. Retaliation may be in the form of reactive bullying, which is when the student is both targeted by bullying and also bullies in response. A student’s sense of well-being is also impacted with feelings of alienation at school or fear of other students.

If the student has not received support from a friend or an adult, they may feel they have to handle the situation on their own. Children should be encouraged to ask for support from an adult they trust, knowing that it’s their right to be safe. Bullying is not a normal part of growing up — but being safe and supported at school, in the community, and online should be.

Learn more at Common Views and Myths About Bullying.

Posted April, 2017

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