With some 77 percent of students admitting to being the victim of one type of bullying or another, and a growing number of adults falling victim to the trend, there's no question verbal and physical intimidation has spiraled out of control.
But some say the use of the word "bullying" is what's gotten out of hand.
Actress Octavia Spencer thinks so, at least. Spencer, who directed "The Unforgiving Minute" earlier this year, a short film about bullying inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem, says she thinks the term is dangerously overused.
In a red carpet interview at GLSEN's Respect Awards in Beverly Hills, Spencer spoke out on news anchor Jennifer Livingston's use of the term in which she called out a viewer who essentially called her fat. "She [Livingston] stood up for herself and I appreciate that. I don't necessarily know that it was bullying," Spencer said, according to Jezebel.com.
Clarifying Spencer's definition of the term and the distinction she makes between "being criticized" and "facing coercion or physical repercussions on a daily basis," Jezebel contributor Doug Barry wrote:
...bullying is really a relentless gauntlet that its victims have to run every single day. Bullying is a kid getting a daily punch in the arm from some goon who will grow up to sell used cars and eat meatloafs out of a slow cooker every Wednesday and Friday night for dinner. Or something.
In a similar moment of clarification, TV host Wendy Williams called out "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice's on her claim that she had been bullied by cast mate Caroline Manzo on the show.
"Bullying is not a word that applies to Jersey Housewives," she said, agreeing with a viewer who wrote in to BravoTV's "Watch What Happens Live," defining it as "that thing that happened to the girl with cerebral palsy, not when someone tells you how they feel about you."
"I think it's a term that's very serious about what's going on right now in the culture and to throw it on certain instances when people are disagreeing is maybe not an exact ..." WWHL host, Andy Cohen, went on to say, implying that bullying may have become more of a catchphrase than the "major public health problem" the World Health Organization described it as in recent years.
Despite her thoughts on Livingston and her own account of being bullied by a Hollywood director, Spencer says she's no expert, according to Jezebel.com, just offering a word of caution so that we do not "desensitize ourselves to it."