Facts About Bullying You Need to Know

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Bullying is a harmful behavior that affects many students. In light of Bullying Prevention Month, here are some fast facts on bullying:

  • In the United States, about 1 in 5 students ages 12-18 experienced bullying during the school year.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who are bullied are more likely to have low self-esteem and to isolate, to perform poorly in school, have few friends at school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms of stress like headache, stomachache, or sleeping problems, and experience mental health problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety.
  • The most common type of bullying is verbal harassment (79%), followed by social harassment (50 percent), and physical bullying (29 percent). Cyberbullying accounts for 25 percent of bullying.
  • Bullying is not only harmful to the person who is bullied, but also the bully and bystanders. Young people who bully others are at a higher risk for substance use, academic problems, and experiencing violence in adolescence and adulthood. People who witness bullying are more likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs; have increased mental health problems; and miss school.
  • Bystander intervention is powerful. More than half (57%) of bullying incidents stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied. Unfortunately, however, peer bystanders intervene less than 20% of the time. (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001).
    • Schools should encourage bystander intervention through teaching anti-bullying skills, offering resources, and ensuring that bystanders are safe. Learn about our courses involving bystander intervention: Consent & Respect and Respect & Resolve
  • Anyone can bully or be bullied, whether they are male or female, whether they are popular or not, or whether they get good grades or not. Many bullies have high self-esteem, but some are victims of bullying themselves. Being a bully is a behavior, not an identity profile. 
    • Labeling a kid as a bully can be harmful because it implies the behavior is fixed and limits their future and ability to change. Empowering students to change is more effective than punishment. Learn more about our intervention course for abusive behaviors: Conflict-Wise
  • Out of students ages 12–18 who reported being bullied at school in 2017, about 46% reported notifying an adult at school about the incident.
  • Bullying and suicide-related behavior are closely related. It’s unclear whether youth with depression and anxiety are more likely to be involved in bullying, whether bullying causes poor mental health, or both. While most youth who are involved in bullying do NOT engage in suicide-related behavior, involvement in bullying, along with other risk factors, increases the risk of a young person engaging in suicide-related behaviors.

Definition of Bullying

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that misuses an imbalance of power and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated. Bullying can happen in person or online, and can be obvious or subtle. There are different types of bullying: 

  • Verbal bullying- Name calling, teasing, insults, racist or homophobic comments
  • Social bullying- Humiliation or harm to reputation, such as spreading rumors, getting others to exclude the individual, or cruel jokes meant to embarrass
  • Physical bullying- Hitting, pushing, or damage to property
  • Cyberbullying- Bullying that happens via digital devices like cell phones or computers, often throughsocial media or texting

Bullying Statistics

The following statistics are from the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019 (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) and the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

How Common is Bullying?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2019:

  • About 20% of American students ages 12-18 were bullied on school property. 
  • About 16% of students ages 12-18 were cyberbullied. 

Methods of Bullying 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017, the following percentages of students reported: 

  • 13%- Being made fun of
  • 13%- Being the subject of rumors
  • 5%- Being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on
  • 5%- Being excluded from activities on purpose
  • 4%- Being threatened with harm
  • 2%- Being coerced to do things they did not want to do
  • 1%- Their property was destroyed by others on purpose 

Who is Bullied?

Race

  • 27% of American Indian/Alaska Native students
  • 23% of Black students
  • 23% of White students
  • 16% of Hispanic students
  • 7% of Asian students

Age

More middle school students report being bullied at school compared to high school students.

  • 29 percent of 6th-graders
  • 24 percent of 7th-graders
  • 25 percent of 8th-graders
  • 19 percent of 9th-graders
  • 19 percent of 10th-graders
  • 15 percent of 11th-graders
  • 12 percent of 12th-graders

Gender

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2019: 

  • 24% of girls were bullied at school
  • 16% of boys were bullied at school

Characteristic Related to Bullying

Out of students who were bullied, the following percentage of students reported being bullied for these specific characteristics: 

  • 29.7%- Physical appearance
  • 9.5%- Race
  • 7.3%- Ethnicity
  • 7.3%- Disability
  • 7.3%- Gender
  • 3.6%- Sexual orientation

What Works: Effective Prevention Involves Everyone

Stopping bullying calls for students, parents, teachers, and community members to get involved. Community-wide efforts address bigger issues that can contribute to bullying and shows kids who are bullied that they are not alone. Rather than zero-tolerance policies which have inconsistent results, programs that emphasize prevention, identification of students with concerning behavior, and skills training like socioemotional learning have success in reducing bullying behaviors (Swearer, Wang, Collins, Strawhun, & Fluke, 2014)

The Centers for Disease Control recommends schools:

  • Promote family environments that support healthy development, such as parent skill programs
  • Provide quality education in early life
  • Strengthen youth's skills
  • Connect youth to caring adults and activities, like mentorship by positive role models and extracurriculars
  • Create protective community environments where students feel safe
  • Intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk

Resources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.” https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm
  2. Hawkins, D. L., Pepler, D. J., & Craig, W. M. (2001). Naturalistic observations of peer interventions in bullying. Social Development, 10(4), 512–527. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9507.00178
  3. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. “Facts About Bullying.” https://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/facts.asp
  4. StopBullying.gov. “Effects of Bullying.” https://www.stopbullying.gov/bullying/effects#bystanders
  5. Institute of Education Sciences. “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019.” https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020063.pdf
  6. Swearer, S. M., Wang, C., Collins, A., Strawhun, J., & Fluke, S. (2014). Bullying: A school mental health perspective. In M. Weist, N. Lever, C. Bradshaw, & O. J. Sarno (Eds.), Handbook of school mental health: Research, training, practice, and policy (2nd ed. Pp. 341-354). New York: NY: Springer Science http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4614-7624-5_25
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With dramatic increases in students with anxiety and trauma from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), educators must address emotional challenges in the classroom and rethink discipline.

October 26, 2020