5 Reasons Why Bullying is Getting Worse

 Cameron Conaway lists five reasons bullying is on the rise, as well as concrete methods of combatting this increase.


“Bullying is a complex issue” has become a clichéd phrase without substance. Politicians sling it around to sound knowledgeable and celebrities use it to sound in touch with reality. It is complex, but it’s an issue that will not change unless we move away from sound bites and move into a national conversation about why.

(1) Technology. Often when technology is brought up in regards to bullying the conversation is about how it allows kids to bully in new ways. This is true. However, while tech has enabled us to have global virtual connections, it has degraded the quality of local human connections. This doesn’t just mean our children are nervous in face-to-face encounters and more comfortable communicating on Facebook, it means their faculties for empathy and compassion is weakening. When students are unable to relate to each other they are more apt to mistreat each other.

(2) Physical Education. “Crisis” is another term thrown around loosely these days, but it could certainly apply to the physical health of today’s youth. In an attempt to keep up with academic powerhouses like China, we’ve adopted an ideology that puts far too much emphasis on classes other than physical education. Physical Education is not simply playing dodgeball. Though exercise and play are important for children in terms of regulating hormone production and even fostering strong minds, it’s essential that we also educate today’s youth on why exercise is important. Exercise makes kids smarter, and I’d argue that it also makes them more tolerant of others

(3) Nutrition. I believe this is an important enough issue to be given it’s own space. We’ve spent billions to create the best chemically-configured oils for the health of our automobiles. Yet when it comes to the nutrition of our children, we are still just feeding them the cheapest out there. Much of it is fried, reconstituted junk. We’ve saturated our children’s taste buds with so many artificial sweetenings that even naturally-sweet fruits and vegetables no longer taste sweet to them. A healthy diet with real foods can help kids better handle stress, sleep deeper and think more clearly. And a healthy body composition increases confidence and bullying often festers because of a lack thereof.

(4) The Educational System. Despite the talk to change things, most schools still have a teach-to-the-test system in place for a large part of the year. And many schools still reward teachers based not on their ability to develop a child’s creativity and true educational skillset, but based on standardized test scores. I’ve witnessed first-hand how this can suck the life out of learning and make school a nightmare for students. Where there’s a classroom of 30 miserable students there’s a breeding ground for bullying. To tie in with #1, schools need to compensate by creating more activities that teach empathy. This could be something as simple as a writing lesson where they free-write from the perspective of a character in a painting.

(5) Parenting. Another cliché thrown around is how education “begins in the home.” Yes, it does. But there’s never talk about what that really means or how this crucial step can be improved. These days, parents simply cannot pop out a kid and expect to learn everything on the fly. There are some tools like creating teachable moments, talking about difficult issues, handling inter/intra personal stressors, etc., that could significantly help how a parent raises their children. No, kids don’t come with instructional manuals, but there are plenty of available tools out there that can help parents be better parents. To come back to the car metaphor, we have to take a driving test before we get on the road. Bad parenting creates bullying.  Good parenting prevents bullying.

This article only scratches the surface. Not only are there other factors involved in the complex issue of bullying, but even the five I’ve mentioned here could be significantly expanded into articles (even books) unto themselves. It’s not enough to be emotionally crushed when we hear on the news of a bullied student committing suicide. We must act. And before we can act we must understand.

Photo of school bully courtesy of Shutterstock.
About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter, an award-winning poet and the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems, Until You Make the Shore and Malaria, Poems. Conaway is also on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.


  1. I need to make a public apology to Cameron. Yesterday I attempted to post a private apology at his website; but for all I know, he may not have received it.

    Cameron, I apologize to you for being rude in my reaction to your OP. That was not the way to communicate in an online exchange.

    I posted late at night on impulse. I should have slept on it.

    Then I should have asked you what kind of P.E. program you supported. I should have waited for your response before I said any more.

    Although I work out with only a personal trainer at my health club, I have no problem with the concept of group exercise. But I still maintain that the traditional “sports only” approach to mandatory boys’ P.E. encourages, instead of discouraging, bullying — especially the bullying of nonathletic boys. Still, there was no justification for my being rude. You clearly have a good heart.

    Again, I sincerely apologize for being rude to you. I regret how I addressed you.

  2. Bullying Requires Non-Education Professionals Bullying requires non-education paofessionrls to step in.Unfortunately, education paofessionrls, as experienced as theyare and have to be with education-related matters, do not havethe know-how or experience needed to deal with radicallyuncontrolled bullying. However, there are police (men and women), psychologists (men and women), and therapists (men and women) who are not in the business of education; but who are trained to deal with the deviant behavior expressed by a true bully. A 1-800 number for bully victims that is easy to remember should be plastered everywhere in schools from the classrooms to the halls to the restrooms to the playgrounds to the busses and athletic fields as gentle reminders to students thinking of getting out of line (bullying). This no-nonsense number would direct the bully victim to immediate help by trained paofessionrls who will evaluate professionally the bully’s mental health and stable or unstable home situation; deal with the bully’s deviant behavior; and help the bully victim through the merciless trauma/abuse he/she experienced all without repercussions to the actual victim. Of course, legal action and prosecution against the bully (not the school) go without saying. As an added incentive, the school administration may dial the number from the school office. Often, but not always, the bully is a repeat offender. Reporting the crime helps authorities build a case against said bully in court holding the bully accountable for his/her actions.

  3. How has the Internet affected Bullying? Is it getting worse??? What percentage and numbers bullying gett worse

  4. I don't know says:

    Regarding #5, bad parenting creates bullies not through neglect but through active abuse–abusive parents bully their children, and their children either learn to be victims or learn to be victimisers.

    I’d also suggest that bullying is increasing because adults model it on television, both in drama and action series, but also on political talk shows and the news.

  5. wellokaythen says:

    Sorry to be “that guy” again, but:

    What’s the evidence that bullying really is getting worse? Perhaps we are more sensitive to it today, but that doesn’t mean that it’s getting worse.

  6. I hear the fat kids pick on the skinny kids now.

  7. Glad to see that Technology is number one on the list!

    It has been a growing issue in the arsenal of Bullying for 20 years – and it has exploded in stages, from Mobile phone and texting to the exponential increase caused by Social Networking and Web3.

    20 years ago the percentage of school children reporting bullying was under 2% – now it’s 25% and the increase is linked directly to opportunity via the net.

    Interestingly the most common defence from bullies is It was a joke – It was funny.

    • Mike L says:


      Is the increase because there’s an actual increase in bullying, or simply because it’s now easier for the children to report on bullying because of the internet?

      Has the quantity of the behavior changed, or are children simply exposed to broader definitions of “bullying” on a regular basis?

      There are many reasons why the growth of the internet has lead to an increase in the number of children who report being bullied that have nothing to do with more actual bullying taking place. I’m just not convinced there has been a real change in behavior, rather than a change in reporting.

      • I have heard that argument before, and it comes in many flavours.

        White Collar crime such as fraud has increased – but is that due to increased reporting options or an actual increase? The evidence points to an actual increase due to means, motive and **opportunity** – there have been so many increased opportunities created through bad programming, bad security and the now ubiquitous nature of the net.

        I’m phlegmatic about the revelations – it just seems to prove that Man’s Inhumanity to Man is alive and well, and Human Nature as always had a nasty side. It just has a new face and more clarity due to technology.

        Bullying is a big issue, and it comes in many forms. I wonder how many people would see the recent Dana Loesch/Chris Loesch Twitter Debacle as a case of Bullying with a nice Cyber Twist?

        Ah but – that’s politics – religion and first amendment stuff!

        Sometimes I have to wonder who the Kids are on the net! P^)

        • But there has also been an offset in other kinds of opportunities.

          20 years ago, a fist fight in school would not necessarily lead to immediate suspension for one or both parties. Children know this today and respond differently.

          There was also always a focus on traditional bullying through physical violence, “emotional bullying” wasn’t considered before the late 1990s. In fact, the entire point of the book “Queen Bees and Wanna Bees” and why it was so “eye opening” was because it exposed a great deal of bullying taking place among girls which was completely unseen before: because it never involved physical altercation.

          It just seems like the definition of bullying has expanded so greatly in the past decade that it’s hard to believe older statistics could possibly be relevant.

          • It just seems like the definition of bullying has expanded so greatly in the past decade that it’s hard to believe older statistics could possibly be relevant.

            I don’t think that the definition has expanded.

            People getting with the program has!

            The stats are still relevant – they help model other social factors such as the long term effects – lower health outcomes – social exclusion – educational underachievement. Some deal in short term outcomes – some in long term.

          • Yea pretty much. “Bullying” “Rape” “Abuse” “Sexism” Misogyny”

            They’ve become so conflated that if you walk down the street and cough you have simultaneously raped, bullied, abused, sexismd, and misogynied.

            • Yeah, far better to throw them all out and leave our kids to face their peers with no help at all. The strong ones will do just fine, and the rest can just go to hell anyway, right?

  8. ” Exercise makes kids smarter, and I’d argue that it also makes them more tolerant of others.”

    Are you kidding? Are you out of your mind? Ask nonathletic boys if much tolerance is shown towards them when they are forced to participate in team games in a mandatory P.E. class. Your assertion is absolutely ridiculous. Dodgeball itself is bully primetime. It’s nothing more than an opportunity to bully an unpopular nonathletic kid in P.E. Some of the worst bullying takes place in P.E. classes. I’m talking about physical bullying, not mere name-calling. Do you think scrawny boys and fat boys are well-treated in traditional sports-based P.E.? The extent of your ignorance is absolutely appalling. Sir, please try to enlarge the borders of your awareness. Sports-based P.E., which is what you seem to advocate, is hellish for nonathletic kids. Many P.E. coaches are prejudiced against nonathletic boys — calling them “feminized,” sissies, wimps, fags. They define masculintiy in terms of sport, which means that nonathletic boys will be deemed inferior and treated as such..

    I agree that exercise is important, but forcing nonathletic kids to participate in sports simply does not work and is actually a form of institutionalized cruelty. There are a few good programs available that actually provide exercise programs that work. The best one I know about is PE4Life. But many people don’t seem to care about good programs that actually do some good. Instead of encouraging nonathletic kds to become active, they cram sports down their throats, which results in some of the worst bullying I’ve ever heard.

    I happen to be very physically active myself. For several years I’ve hired a personal trainer to work with me on a bodybuilding program. My health club experience has been quite beneficial and even therapeutic, in direct contrast to me P.E. experience — which was nothing but humiliation and misery, which you seem intent to impose on the latest generation of nonathletic kids. Shame on you.

    • Dear Bill,

      A discussion about bullying cannot begin with bullying.

      Regarding this: “Exercise makes kids smarter, and I’d argue that it also makes them more tolerant of others,” you asked:

      “Are you kidding? Are you out of your mind?”

      Nope. No, I’m not.

      Perhaps get to your health club, pound the iron and shower up. When you’re ready to discuss rationally and without the impairment of emotion’s clouds I’ll be ready and willing.


      • Nice bit of shaming there, Cameron. Do you respond to all critiques this way?

        Do you agree with his general point that non-atheletic kids are treated like trash in the Physical Education System? Or not?

        If not, Why? If you do, then say it.

        Do you also agree with the fact that sports, though a healthy thing, gets pushed way too much on kids who aren’t interested and not built for sports? Or not?

        It’s as simple as that.

        I’m no sports fanatic. And let me tell you, Physical Education Class was horrid for me. I hated changing with the other boys because in elementary school they’d make fun of my penis size or at least stare at it with a smirk. Which is why, in high school, I always changed in the bathroom and avoided the boys at all cost. If they scoffed at my penis size back then, god knows what they would do as high schoolers to me if I changed with them.

        Physical Education Class wasn’t interesting to me either. It had its moments, but overall I wasn’t crazy about it.

        That’s my two cents.

      • QuantumInc says:

        The fact that non-athletic kids are bullied by athletic kids is considered common sense. It’s not always true, but it is one of the more common types of bullying and always has been, at least between boys. It is more common though less intense than the homophobic bullying that keeps making the news.

        Actually though the two types are related, as both unathletic males and homosexual males are often seen as failures, though the homosexuals are considered bigger failures.

        Bill was not trying to engage in bullying but rather express intense shock at Cameron’s ideas.

        Cameron seems to believe that just improving student’s health will make them into better people. This is simply not true. It is false for what should be obvious reasons. Smart people are not morally superior. Physically able people are not more ethical. Good circulation does not equal good karma.

        Seriously Cameron, where did you get this silly notion from?

        • QuantumInc says:

          It isn’t utterly impossible, but the Cameron doesn’t really offer any evidence that improved health, via exercise and/or nutrition would make kids treat each other nicely. There’s two sentences:

          1. “Exercise makes kids smarter, and I’d argue that it also makes them more tolerant of others”
          2. “And a healthy body composition increases confidence and bullying often festers because of a lack thereof.”

          1. he never actually makes that argument.
          2. I see the logic, however I read about research that suggests that bullying is often caused when a kid develops a superiority complex. Such a person probably has too much confidence, and feels to need to attack anyone who doubts them, and to bully easy targets to prove their superiority. This research has been around for several years and partly caused the fall of the pro-self-esteem craze of the 1990s. However the research since them doesn’t seem to be reaching any strong conclusions.

          However it does seem obvious that the causes of bullying are rather complex, like Cameron said a single article can merely scratch the surface. Though I would advise one also look at sociological phenomena.

          Though please Cameron elaborate on sentences 1 and 2 discussed above, please.

      • Mr. Conaway-

        Bill’s emotional impairment aside, everything he said regarding mandatory P.E. is true. In junior high and high school (1984-89) I saw it in action toward my non-athletic friends and my younger brother (who was, and still is, obese), and with regard to dodgeball, I also was on the receiving end of the athletic/bulked-out classmates desire to see who could raise the biggest welts with the ball. The only moments I did shine were in team-related activities: volleyball, softball, and while not team-related: archery.

        I’ve heard it said by parents of my generation and older, that this sort of targeting-the-perceived-weak behavior is nothing more than the establishment and maintenance of the social pecking order, similar to the contest for the title of Alpha Male in a wolf pack. While that’s probably accurate, I’d like to think I’m a little more advanced than my dog, and not just because I have opposable thumbs with which to operate the can opener.

        While Bill’s comment was definitely emotion-driven, it’s dangerous to describe emotion’s clouds as an “impairment”. Just as real clouds serve a purpose, however they may inconvenience us when the yard needs tending, emotions too serve a purpose-complete with inconvenience to our intent to act rationally.

        • Eagle34 says:

          I actually don’t find any impairment in Bill’s comment.

          What was apparent, though, is that he was hurt majorly by his peers in high school. The hurt is pretty raw and he was expressing it. It didn’t help that Cameron outright dismissed it with his snark response.

          Bill was also very honest about his hurt and explained fully where it came from. So no, there was hardly any impairment from his emotions. Now, if he went out and attacked Cameron full blast, insulted him, without any reason whatsoever then I’d see impairment. Since none of that happened, Bill did fine.

          • Thank you, Eagle34. Ah, there’s an advantage to reading the comments from the bottom. I won’t be reading the snarky comment. 🙂

            I was a bit strident; and for that, I apologize. But my position hasn’t changed. Historically traditional mandatory P.E. has had a dirty little secret; and that is, nonathletic boys have often been bullied in those classes. It just goes to reason. If a P.E. class divides into two teams, the presence of the nonathletes will be resented by the more athletically inclined students because they’re a drag on the team’s performance. The atmosphere in such P.E. classes is a mixture of social Darwinism and machismo. Nonathletic boys are stereotyped as wimps, sissies, and fags. But nonathletic boys, historically being marginalized, suffer without anyone in their corner.

            I have no problem with team sports in the schools. Traditional “sports only” P.E. should be optional, however. If P.E. is to be mandatory, then a genuine fitness program such as PE4Life should be provided, allowing nonathletes to have a choice. Incidentally, PE4Life has been shown to reduce bullyng. As I said, I support physical fitness programs. The old P.E. did absolutely nothing to encourage nonathletic kids to become physically active. Today I get more exercise in a single workout session with my personal trainer than I ever did in an entire year of mandatory P.E. There usually wasn’t even any instruction in the sports themselves. All I ever learned in P.E. was to fear coaches and athlete classmates.

            Cameron, if you think I’m just making this all up, do Google searches on “P.E. bullying” and “phys ed bullying.” You’ll be amazed at what you’ll come up with. There definitely are problems with the Internet, but at least those who were voiceless now can speak out. The truth of the matter is that the bullying of nonathletic kids in traditional mandatory P.E. was ignored and condoned. “It’s just part of life,” blah, blah, blah. If you demand that traditional P.E. be mandatory in all school districts without using programs that actually work (such as PE4Life), you are not decreasing bullying. You’re actually increasing bullying (piling on in the showers, urinating upon the victim in the showers). If this is what you choose, I hope you can live with it.

            • MicheleB says:

              It’s not just boys who are bullied into PE.

              I was the smallest girl during most of my time in elementary school. I was also bullied. It was bad enough during class (I had constant respiratory illnesses and once had all my clean tissues billow out onto the floor; after that I was called ‘the tissue lady’), but PE was the worst. I was small, graceless and the only black girl in my class. Every gym class was agony. No one wanted me on a team, or even wanted to touch me. Even at 50, I still remember how painful it was. In gym it was usually the girls who treated me badly.

              Later, at a single-sex college, I ended up (to my deep shame) bullying one of my dorm mates. She was graceless and whiny and rejected every other freshman’s friendship. She was a loner. I usually was too, but I’d made an effort to get along with my dorm mates. Unfortunately for her, she decided to take fencing, and so did several others from her dorm, including me. Without ever discussing it, her dorm mates, including me, ganged up on her. Whenever we sparred with her, she seemed to get hit harder and more often than everyone else. I remember wanting to hurt her, and hating myself for it. One day in the locker room, we all saw her naked, and saw how bad the bruises were, and after she left, we all talked. We realized we were taking our aggressions out on her, and once we did, the bullying stopped. We never apologized. I don’t think we knew how, if that makes any sense. I do know that in both cases the gym teachers either ignored what was going on (college) or seemed to encourage it (grade school).

            • Back when we were a more authoritarian society, maybe phy ed bullying made some half-assed kind of sense, or at least reflected the views of the majority of adult culture. All young men had to be drafted and serve in the military, where institutionalized bullying and exercising till you drop is vital to discipline and training. Once out, they presumably would need to respond positively to belittlement from male workforce superiors, as well.

              For young women, who were mostly segreated in PE classes of the day, the issue was intense in different ways. But I would guess it helped reinforce the idea that beauty, physical grace, and being part of a social ingroup were vitally important to your later life. You needed to adjust your expectations to those who picked on others, and not disturb the status quo.

      • Anthony Zarat says:

        Cameron, your arguments are weak. Your reaction to Bill is even worse.

        The intent of the bully is not to win an argument. The intent of a bully is to establish a dominant power dynamic over another person (which can include group exclusion).

        I think we both know that Bill has no interest in establishing a dominant power relationship over you. Consequently, his foreceful rejection of your article is not bullying.

        You have taken a number of important educational issues, all of which I agree with, and wrapped them up in a nonsensical enchilada that you call “bullying”. It just did not work.

      • In at least two of your five blurbs, you subtly blame the victim for being bullied. I am a bullying researcher and speaker and blaming the victim in any way removes responsibility from the aggressors. While leading a more healthy lifestyle with some sort of physical release for stress and better nourishment helps a person cope with the stress of bullying, not fitting into the patriarchal masculinity-based paradigm of what boys and girls ought to be gives no one the right to abuse someone. Being abused is never the victim’s fault.

        I agree that laissez-faire parenting has contributed to an increase in bullying insofar as parents are not teaching their children to respect themselves and others. However, close to 2 in 25 people are born sociopaths with 70% of the sociopathy present at birth. These people are true bullies and are not fixable.

        Before you declare any expertise on the matter, be sure to do your homework and treat commenters with respect, or you too are a bully.


  1. […] This article only scratches the surface. Not only are there other factors involved in the complex issue of bullying, but even the five I’ve mentioned here could be significantly expanded into articles (even books) unto themselves. It’s not enough to be emotionally crushed when we hear on the news of a bullied student committing suicide. We must act. And before we can act we must understand. Photo of school bully courtesy of Shutterstock. Click here to read the entire article on GoodMenProject.com. […]

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