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High School

High School Bullying Guide (Resource for Parents)

Learn more about bullying in high school and how you can help your child if they’re experiencing a form of bullying.
Laura Amendola.

Laura Amendola

If you're concerned about bullying or considering transferring your child to an online school due to safety reasons, you are not alone. Bullying impacts so many children as they navigate their way through their formative years. This guide highlights the need-to-know information about high school bullying.

Statistics and important facts about bullying in high school

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group 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.” Students aged 12-18 are often the victims of bullying, with about 20% experiencing bullying nationwide. According to Pew Research Center, about 35% of US parents worry about their children getting bullied.


Bullying can occur in person on a school campus or virtually, known as cyberbullying. Types of bullying include:

  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Relational/social
  • Damage of property of the victim


In a survey conducted by Penn Foster High School of potential online high school students, 10% of respondents said that “concerns over bullying” drove them to consider online education, and 11% also said that they had “concerns over school safety.”*


Read more: A Parents Guide To Online High School


What to say to your student about bullying

There’s no definitive right way to talk to your kids about bullying, just like there isn’t one solution to prevent bullying itself. According to Stop Bullying, simply talking to your children about bullying can help in the prevention, as well as leading by example. You can also draw on your own experience if applicable when discussing bullying with your children.


What is social bullying?

There are several types of bullying and as society evolves, types of bullying evolve as well. One prevalent type of bullying is social, or relational, bullying.


Stop Bullying delves into social bullying in the following way:


“Social bullying involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose
  • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
  • Spreading rumors about someone
  • Embarrassing someone in public”


What is cyberbullying?

When the internet was invented, something less exciting was invented as a result: cyberbullying. It started out with instant messaging platforms but, as the internet evolved, so did cyberbullying and the creation of social media ensured the ease of this type of bullying.


Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs electronically. Cyberbullies can execute their aggression anonymously, frequently, and at any time, making it difficult to escape. Since this type of bullying is done virtually through devices rather than in person, it can be much harder for parents or teachers to notice a child is experiencing it. It’s also important to note that once something is on the internet, it’s often there forever.


Stop Bullying shares the most common places cyberbullying occurs:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities


What if your student is the bully?

There are several reasons why a child might exhibit the behavior of a bully. According to “Why Some Youth Bully,” peers, family, emotional health, and school can influence bullying behavior. Bullying is not a one size fits all characteristic, however, and children who have none of these factors can still bully others.


An article from STOMP Out Bullying called “What To Do if Your Child is a Bully” gives a great overview of how to address this situation if you find yourself dealing with it. A big thing they mention is to take it seriously, which is so important. Many parents brush off this kind of feedback about their kid or even deny it all together. Ignorance is not always bliss, and ignoring something so serious can have awful repercussions down the road.


How to get help for your high school student who is being bullied 

There are a number of things you can do to help a high schooler who is being bullied.


1. Listen

As previously mentioned, talking about bullying with your child can be a huge help. Create an environment where your child feels safe and comfortable coming to you with any aggression they are experiencing at school or online and listen to what they’re telling you. Downplaying the situation can sometimes do more harm than good, so hear them out fully and be sure not to invalidate their feelings.


2. Digital awareness

With the large role technology plays in most teens’ lives, it’s important for parents to practice digital awareness. A lot of digital awareness practices could make some parents and kids feel uncomfortable, but they can be extremely beneficial when looking out for your child or even preventing your child from becoming a bully.


Digital awareness practices, according to Stop Bullying, include:

  • Monitor a teen’s social media sites, apps, and browsing history, if you have concerns that cyberbullying may be occurring.
  • Review or re-set your child’s phone location and privacy settings.
  • Follow or friend your teen on social media sites or have another trusted adult do so.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest apps, social media platforms, and digital slang used by children and teens.
  • Know your child’s user names and passwords for email and social media.
  • Establish rules about appropriate digital behavior, content, and apps.


3. Research

There are a ton of great resources you can look into for more information on bullying and what signs to look for, as well as how you can help your child if you find them experiencing bullying. Some great websites with a plethora of information are Stop Bullying and STOMP Out Bullying.


Read more: How to Choose a High School: What to Look for in an Online High School for Yourself or Your Teen


4. Familiarize yourself with the resources available

Due to how prevalent and damaging bullying can be, many resources have been created to help families that have been touched by bullying. The Crisis Text Line is a great resource your child can use if they are experiencing bullying and don’t know where to turn.


5. Consider alternative routes to education

If your child is experiencing bullying, consider an alternative education. Traditional classroom settings are not the only ones students can learn in. There are many online high schools students can enroll in where they can learn from the safety of their own home.


When potential Penn Foster High School students and parents were asked how well traditional in-person schools meet students' needs for a safe environment, 35% said "not well." However 79% felt that online-only schools meet students' needs for a safe environment "well."*


This sentiment is echoed by many of the instructors and staff at Penn Foster, who understand first hand that an online learning environment can be a haven. Cathy Breymeier, Manager of High School Course Sales at Penn Foster, says “My team works with guidance counselors and administrators in high schools across the country, and bullying, anxiety, or feeling a lack of acceptance in traditional school environments are common reasons for students to switch to online learning programs."


Read more: What Is Virtual High School, And Is It Right for Me?


Determine what action is right for your student

It may not ever be possible to completely put a stop to bullying, but you can do right by your child by listening to them and doing what you can to help. Sometimes this could include making big changes to ensure your child’s safety. If you’re thinking about making the switch to online school for your child but want more information, you can read about how online school compares to traditional school and make an informed decision that will benefit your student.


* Data sourced from the 2023 Early Penn Foster High School Leads Survey conducted by Penn Foster Group, examining early leads and student concerns, including safety and bullying.


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