Educator and Coach Toolkit

Understanding Bullying

Explore foundational resources on what bullying is and what it isn’t, and find out what to do about it. Review high-quality bullying prevention programs, and engage with the Bullying and Mental Health Playbook.

More than 1 in 3 teens report they have been bullied in the past year, but that number is significantly higher for some groups.

The 2022 Choose Kindness Project Survey, conducted by Ipsos

What bullying is and what it isn’t

Build your understanding of bullying

Bullying is any unwanted, intentional aggressive behavior that causes physical, emotional, educational, and/or psychological harm to others. Three indicators of bullying are that the behavior:

  • Is unwanted and intentionally aggressive,
  • Involves an imbalance of power between two people who are not friends or siblings, and
  • Is repeated over time.

Importantly, we should not assume that all conflict is bullying. Friends may have disagreements or joke with each other without those interactions constituting bullying, and individual children may be competitive or assertive without bullying.

Why bullying happens

Understand some common contributing factors

There is no universal factor that puts a child at risk of being bullied, bullying others, or witnessing bullying, but some common contributing factors do exist.

Youth who are bullied tend to be perceived as “different” from those who are doing the bullying. The perceived difference may be physical, such as dressing differently from their peers, or it may be interpersonal, like having fewer friends. Some bullying, called identity-based bullying, can be rooted in the bullying individual’s own biases – for example, bullying based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.

When it comes to exhibiting bullying behavior, emotional factors (e.g., difficulty with self-regulation), peer factors (e.g., the desire to fit in), family factors (e.g., witnessing bullying at home), and school factors (e.g., feeling excluded) are common contributors

But it’s important to remember that each child is unique. The presence of one or more contributing factors does not determine whether a child will be bullied by others or exhibit bullying behavior.

In The 2022 Choose Kindness Project survey, teens reported that the number one reason they either experienced or saw bullying was based on appearance and weight.

The 2022 Choose Kindness Project Survey, conducted by Ipsos

What educators and coaches can do about bullying

Share “Bullying 101” resources with families

Start the conversation about bullying with students’ families early. Customize a note you can send to families to share the Bullying and Mental Health Playbook for Parents & Caregivers and to introduce the bullying prevention program you have adopted.

Continue to build your knowledge

Explore the other collections – Preventing Bullying, Responding to Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Mental Wellness – to continue building your knowledge and to access actionable resources and tools.

Adopt a high-quality bullying prevention program

Explore another collection

Check out other helpful resources

We have many other resources available to you beyond the Educator and Coach Toolkit. Just a couple options to get started:

Check out the Parent Playbooks
Check out Resources and Support
Emergency Services

Call 911

Emergency: 911

Mental Health Crisis

Call 988

Mental Health Crisis: 988