Note: In 2011, AOTA identified bullying as an emerging niche in occupational therapy. It has since become more mainstream, so newer content appears elsewhere on this site. This page has been retained for historical information. Learn more about the 2011 Emerging Niche series here.

Bully Why emerging? Bullying has been a problem for children for years, but recently cyber-bullying has become a pervasive issue affecting one in five youths between ages 10 and 18 years and making bullying more prevalent in general.1 Technology is changing the way children bully and because children devote an average of 7.5 hours a day to their gadgets, it means bullies have an almost constant ability to reach their victims.2 Recent news of children and young adults committing suicide due to being victims of bullying has brought the topic national attention.3

Get Involved! For the past 10 years, Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, has run an after school program for low income urban youth in the Cleveland, Ohio, area where she fosters social emotional learning and the development of leisure interests. Addressing these social participation issues also means addressing bullying. Bazyk also edited a book on children's mental health that focuses on the development of positive mental health as well as prevention of mental health challenges.4 "What's critical is that if children have at least one good friend that is a buffer that helps prevent them from being bullied," she says. "OTs really need to be aware that anything we do related to social participation and friendship issues can help prevent bullying."

Practitioners who want to get involved need to know what is already happening in their schools—anti-bullying programs, laws against bullying in their state, and committees or initiatives studying bulling. "Number one is awareness and making it known that occupational therapy practitioners are providers in addition to school counselors who have a background related to social participation and mental health," says Bazyk. Practitioners need to identify high risk children, such as children with disabilities or who are obese, and note behaviors that might suggest mental health challenges. Because many practitioners work with keyboarding and technology, they should promote safe utilization of the Internet to help prevent cyber bullying. Practitioners should also be aware of resources on the Internet that are free and accessible, such as and the Web site of Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

"There's a heightened awareness of bullying and the fact that we're not just talking about the bully and the victim—it affects the whole school population," says Bazyk. "It's not a black and white issue anymore. Some kids that are bullied can also be the person who is bullying others."



  1. Cyberbullying Research Center. (2010). Summary of our cyberbullying research from 2004–2010. Retrieved April 28, 2011, from
  2. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Retrieved April 28, 2011, from
  3. Chen, S. (2010, October 4). After student's death, a weeklong look into bullying. Retrieved April 28, 2011, from
  4. Bazyk, S. (Ed.). (2010). Mental health promotion, prevention and intervention for children and youth: A guiding framework for occupational therapy. Bethesda, MD: AOTA Press.