Bullying and cyberbullying are two forms of aggressive behavior that can have devastating effects on their victims. While bullying takes place in the physical world, cyberbullying occurs online or through digital devices. In both cases, the intent is to intimidate, harm or humiliate another person.
School bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying can take many forms, including physical, verbal and relational. Physical bullying involves physical harm or the threat of physical harm, such as hitting, pushing or tripping someone. Verbal bullying includes insults, name-calling and teasing. Relational bullying involves spreading rumors, excluding someone from a group or using social manipulation to control or harm another person. Research shows that this type of adolescent victimization occurs frequently and can result in serious consequences for both the bully and the victim. According to the CDC’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report, 25% of students nationwide reported experiencing bullying.
Traditional schoolyard bullying has expanded with cyberbullying, which takes place online or through digital devices, such as smartphones or computers. Cyberbullying can include sending threatening or harassing messages, posting embarrassing photos or videos, or spreading rumors and lies online. It also varies from physical bullying in that it can happen at any time, anonymously, and be difficult to trace. Cyberbullying can occur in social media platforms, text messages and online gaming communities, among other spaces. The 2021 Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety found that a higher percentage of public schools reported cyberbullying in 2019-20 than in 2009-10 (16% versus 8%).
The effects of bullying and cyberbullying can be devastating. Victims can experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts. They may feel isolated and afraid, and their academic performance may suffer as a result. In some cases, bullying can even lead to physical violence.
Legislative Responses to Bullying
Many states have enacted laws and policies to address the serious effects of bullying and cyberbullying on individuals and communities. These legislative efforts often focus on prevention, education and enforcement. Many states begin with legislation defining bullying or cyberbullying. Some states have been requiring schools to implement anti-bullying programs and policies, while others require schools to report incidents of bullying to the state. Many states have allocated funds to anti-bullying measures and some have created task forces or commissions to study bullying and make recommendations for prevention and response. Other common legislative themes include state-level support, professional development, school intervention strategies and student support strategies.