Preteen Bullying: It's Many Faces

According to, every preteen at some point will be both bullied and bully (or tease) others. Bullying is a hot topic these days, both in the media and in school yards across the country. My kids public school in California recently had an entire week focused on bullying. Sean Sweet, preteen pastor in Rocklin, CA recently asked the preteens attending Elevate (4th/5th graders) how many have been bullied or witnessed bullying. Just about every single preteen raised their hand! The reality is that the preteens in your group are regularly exposed to it. Although bullying has been around since you and I were kids, it has recently been recognized to take on many forms. Some are the more common but others are worth considering. Here are some of them:

1. The Bully: This is the classic bully or group of bullies that harass their peers. The bully (or group of) continuously make fun of, hits or teases. This type of bullying is extremely harmful and can have significant impact on its victims.

2. Sibling Bullying: Siblings often bully each other. It could be severe, but the more common form is less severe. One example would be a constant bad attitude toward a sibling that tears them down rather than builds up. We usually don’t consider this bullying and justify it (myself included) to the relational dynamics of siblings. But no matter its severity or form, it simply is not healthy. Another interesting thing to consider is a study published by the British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Dr. Ersilia Menesini and her colleagues at the Universita’ degi Studi di Firenze found that there was a direct correlation between sibling bullying and victimization and bullying and victimization at school. In short, the roles kids play out at home are likely to be reenacted with peers. Something for parents (myself included) to consider.

3. Teasing. Another form of bullying is teasing or put downs. This might not be a steady dose directed towards one person, as in the classic bully scenario. But it is a form of bullying. The problem is that most preteens don’t recognize put-downs as a form of bullying. It’s simply an accepted form of interaction among peers. However, when a peer environment is full of teasing, a preteen’s self-esteem is often negatively impacted. At best, he/she experiences emotional pain and hurt as a result.

4. Cyber Bullying. In today’s digital age bullying has taken on a more scary form. Cyber bullying happens online. Many preteens have access to social websites, such as myspace, facebook, etc. The outcome is devastating. You may have seen in the media young teenagers ending their lives due to cyber bullying. While that might not be the norm, victims carry a lot of daily hurt and pain that often affects every other part of their lives. With cyber bullying, bullies harass victims by posting comments online. It’s easier to do for the bully (no face-to-face confrontation) and sometimes more harmful to victims (quickly spreads, more public & often less noticeable by adults). With the introduction of mobile devices, bullies can also taunt victims through texting. Even the younger preteens in your group have mobile phones these days. Cyber bullying is big and odds are your preteens have some degree of exposure to it.

There may be more forms of bullying than listed above. It certainly isn’t a comprehensive list. As awareness increases, it gives us an opportunity to take action. As a children’s or preteen leader, what can you do about bullying?

The first step is to do something. Realize it is a big enough topic worth addressing in some way. Every church and community is different, so everyone’s approach will be different. However, Jesus and the Bible give us a lot of advice on the topic. But that is for another blog…

Stay tuned next week, where we’ll take a further look at what you and I can do to address bullying. And it might not be what you think. We can’t just tell preteens to stop bullying. There is more to it than simply telling victims to go to an adult when bullying or witnessing bullying. It goes deeper and is more complex. has done something to address the issue. We’ve recently released a four week series on the topic – Bullying: Taking Down Goliath. Whether or not you choose to use it is up to you. But I do encourage you to consider doing something, whatever you see fit given your unique church/community situation.

2 Responses to “Preteen Bullying: It's Many Faces

  • Connie Palmer
    12 years ago

    I am a therapist and school counselor and I so agree that we need to stand together to help stop bullying. I have discovered an innovative approach that helps give victims the social skills to deal with bullies. The approach is simple but extrememly effective and empowering. Please check out
    We need the standard that bullying is wrong,but we need a deeper understanding of the dynamics in order to stop it. Most “bullying” is done my victims. We need strategies that will help them as well as those they bully.
    Feel free to write me at my email if you would like to discuss this further.
    I would also recommend the book, Love is Greater than Hate by Brooks Gibbs, which is a great book for teens and preteens.

  • ndiliberto
    12 years ago

    Thanks Connie. I love the site you have. Posting a link to it in my next blog on bullying.