Is Bullying Worse Today?


The word “bully” gets used a lot these days. There is no shortage of stories on this topic. The common consensus seems to be that bullying has gotten worse. In some very sad instances, suicide has been linked to bullying. But has it gotten worse?  Teasing and getting picked on is a common theme across most school yards and lunch rooms.  I wondered what the perception of bullying is to parents. What does it mean to our children?



The Parent Survey

Let me start off by saying that I am not an expert by any means. I talked to a small group of my family and friends. Their thoughts and opinions do not represent all parents or children. I asked the same questions to the group.

The parents in my survey have children in elementary school, middle school, and high school. They are parenting their children in different stages of their lives. I also talked to young adults in their 20’s. Young adults without children have an important perspective as well. They were “kids” not too long ago.

Here are their top 3 answers:

Has bullying gotten worse?

  1. The Zero Tolerance policies in our schools don’t work because they are had to enforce. Schools and teachers can try and prevent it but the truth is bullying is hard to judge. Teasing may not seem like a big deal to one kid and a huge deal to another. That is why there is such a discrepancy in how a school handles these issues.
  2. Bullying is no better or worse than it always has been. Kids are softer these days and need to toughen up. Life is full of mean people. Learning how to get through these times will prepare them for life in the real world.
  3. Bullying is worse because of social media. They can hide behind a screen. They also have access to each others lives around the clock. Not just at school. There isn’t a break to put out the bullying fire. 

According to  StopBullying.Gov:

In my search for answers I came across It is an official government site focused on bringing awareness to bullying, cyberbullying, prevention and resources. Their official description of bullying is the following:

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Ask the Children

I had conversations with kids between the ages of 10-16 years old. Some of their answers I expected while others surprised me. Their thoughts can only give us insight to the state of bullying today as they see it in their world. My hope is that it provides a comparison to judge if it is truly worse. I took their answers and summarized below.

Q: What is bullying?

A: Bullying is when someone is being mean to someone else. They bother them all the time and won’t leave them alone. They intimidate them and say they will beat them up. A bully will constantly bother you and also get their friends to feel the same about you. 

Q: Why do kids bully other kids?

A: Some kids are just mean and they like to make fun of people. There usually isn’t a reason why the bullying starts, but usually its the kid that doesn’t really have friends and is always by themselves that gets bullied. Sometimes is starts as teasing and if they don’t stand up for themselves then it will keep going.

Q: What would happen if someone told a teacher or a parent about the bullying?

A: Kids don’t tell because if they do then they get bullied for being a snitch. When you tell you become the target. Teachers can’t be everywhere. Kids just go behind a building or something and bully the kids. It is better to deal with the bully yourself. If you tell a teacher then you see weak and like you can’t handle your own problems. If they show the bullying bothers them and they seem weak then it doesn’t stop.

Q: How do we stop bullying?

A: Kids just need to be nice and think of others’ feelings. Maybe they don’t know how bullying makes someone else feel and if they know maybe they will stop. You have to show confidence and remember that what they say is not who you are. Eventually they will get bored.

So What Do We Do?

The general conclusion for me seems to be that bullying is just as I remember from my own childhood. So what do we do? Does the answer lie in teaching confidence and empathy? Do schools need better policies? I turned to stop  for answers. Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can: 

A Good Start

One of the children came forward and shared that she was getting bullied as a result of the survey. The parents didn’t know and were completely shocked. The questions I asked started the conversation. It is so important to ask questions. Perhaps the questions have been asked before. Perhaps your children seem “normal”. Our children do not always know how to talk about their problems. All we can do is continue to ask and be there for them. This family was able to have the conversation, speak about their feelings and come up with a plan to deal with the situation. The child has all the support and love to get through this tough situation. I have no doubt the she will come out on top. It is a good start.

The Takeaway on Bullying

This small survey of my close friends and family isn’t the answer to bullying. There are resources available to help us better understand bullying and how to stand up against it. As parents we want to shield our kids from uncomfortable experiences and we want to spare their feelings from the harsh realties of life. The takeaway for me is that bullying situations are a part of life, unfortunately. Perhaps through love, confidence, empathy and tolerance we can teach our children that they matter, they are valued, they are important. A bully is a bully because they find a victim. Without a victim, bullying ceases to exist. 


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