For students, bullying is a significant problem, especially in middle school: up to half of students are involved, either as a bully, a victim, or a bystander. The effects of bullying range from negligible to very severe, including individual psychological difficulties as well as consequences for criminogenic behavior. Theories to explain multidetermined bullying behavior include ecological as well as family-based approaches.
Bullying must contain the following elements: unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or groups of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. This definition describes traditional bullying, in which a person or persons can be seen to be engaged in bullying behavior. Since the late 1990s, cyberbullying has been on the rise. Traditional bullying and cyberbullying differ in the following ways: (a) cyberbullying often means the victim does not know who the bully is; (b) cyberbullying is not a discreet incident; it can be preserved in cyberspace indefinitely; (c) anger rumination, anxiety, depression, and suicidality are more prevalent among cyberbully victims; (d) cyberbullies can exhibit decreased empathy for others relative to traditional bullies; and (e) longitudinal research has found some support that cyberbullies may develop delinquent behaviors in adulthood.
Bullying affects a significant proportion of students, between 18% and 31% of students in the United States are likely to be involved in traditional bullying, whereas rates of cyberbullying involvement are close to 59%. Any participation in bullying can affect youth negatively. Being either a bully or a victim can lead to depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts.
Being a perpetrator of bullying and cyberbullying may also increase the likelihood of criminal activity in young adulthood. According to the path analytic model of juvenile delinquency, it is likely that association with delinquent peers and parenting style are related to bullying behavior.
Prevention and intervention programs have had some positive effects. Prevention and intervention efforts should concentrate on universal dissemination of effective strategies, including that cyberbullies are not really anonymous. Family and school-based interventions can strengthen adult support while encouraging programs that teach children to respect each other, promoting prosocial development. For traditional bullying, school climate programs in primary school have shown positive effects. Interventions for traditional bullying that are based in family therapy have shown success. Due to the novelty of cyberbullying, few intervention studies are available as yet. Efforts to prevent cyberbullying include setting up anonymous tiplines in schools and sharing up-to-date technological advances with parents so that they can implement those blocks that are available.
Finally, there are no specific federal laws in the United States addressing bullying; however, federal regulations do exist to provide frameworks for anti-discrimination laws pertaining to protected classes. Although there are no explicit federal regulations that address bullying, state and local policies have been key components in addressing bullying issues. There has been some evidence that suggest that anti-bullying laws and policies in schools may decrease bullying perpetration. Countries including New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden have passed specific laws to address bullying, while some countries apply laws created to address other infractions to include bullying.