Facts and Statistics
If your child is being bullied (or is bullying), he's not alone. A recent national survey of students in grades 6 through 10 reported that 13 percent of students bullied others, 11 percent had been bullied, and 6 percent reported both being bullied and bullying others. Bullying generally begins in the elementary grades, peaks in the sixth through eighth grades, and persists into high school.
In 2001, The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that more than 160,000 students skip school every day because they are anxious and fearful of being bullied by other students. School is supposed to be a safe haven for students, but adults who did not experience bullying or don't fully understand it may inadvertently downplay and devalue the experience. This is mainly caused by confusion among parents, teachers, and administrators about what the definition of bullying is and how they should deal with it when it occurs.
When examining statistics and survey results, it is important to remember that different surveys may use different measures and definitions of bullying, and the focus of the survey may be on a specific age group or on school-age children in general. This variability can cause statistical results to differ significantly from one study to the next.
The Youngest Targets
According to a 2001 national survey of parents and kids by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Nickelodeon, 74 percent of eight- to 11-year-old students said teasing and bullying regularly occur at their schools, while only about half of parents in this survey saw bullying as a problem for their children.
This discrepancy may be because young kids believe that since teasing and bullying happens so frequently it's normal or to be expected. Or it could be that kids who are teased or bullied are afraid to tell anyone about it, even their parents.
Recent playground statistics show that when a child is bullied, a whopping 85 percent of the time no one intervenes. This just proves that most school bullying continues to be carried out under the radar of teachers and school personnel. A 2001 Kaiser Family Foundation study confirmed this when 71 percent of teachers reported that they intervened often or almost always, whereas only 23 percent of children agreed.
Middle School Bullying
According to the Josephson Institute of Ethics, bullying peaks in the 11- to 12-year-old age group, so it isn't surprising that 39 percent of middle school students say they don't feel safe at school. In a 1999 study involving middle schools, Bosworth reported that 80 percent of the students engaged in some form of bullying for the past 30 days. Students report that, “bullying takes place during times when the attention of the teacher is focused elsewhere, such as, when a teacher's back is turned to help another student or perhaps to write on the board.”
“Being bullied is not just an unpleasant rite of passage through childhood,” said Duane Alexander, MD, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in an NIH news release. “It's a public health problem that merits attention. People who were bullied as children are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem, well into adulthood, and the bullies themselves are more likely to engage in criminal behavior later in life.”
High School Violence
In a 2001 Kaiser Family Foundation study, 86 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 15 reported that they get teased or bullied at school. This means that bullying is more prevalent than smoking, alcohol, drugs, or sex among this age group. And while a large percentage of these incidents likely fall into the teasing/taunting side of things rather than vicious, violent bullying, it's unnerving to realize that so many of our kids are dealing with bullying on some level on a daily basis.
Tragically, investigations of the student shootings at Columbine High School and other U.S. schools have suggested that bullying was a factor in many of the incidents. In 2002, a report released by the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education concluded that bullying played a significant role in many school shootings. In fact, one key finding was that in 37 incidents involving 41 school shooters, “many of the attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.”
According to the 2004 i-SAFE survey of 1,500 students: 58 percent of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online; 53 percent of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online; and 58 percent have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
Bullying is now recognized as an important contributor to youth violence, including homicide, suicide, and “bullycide” — the label now applied to children who kill themselves to escape being bullied. The term “bullycide” was coined by authors Neil Marr and Tim Field in their book Bullycide: Death at Playtime, which explores stories of children who have committed suicide as a result of having been bullied.
The New Cyberthreat
Thanks to modern technology, bullying is no longer “just” a schoolyard problem. Unlimited and often unsupervised access to instant messaging, e-mail, chat rooms, and websites created specifically to insult and humiliate peers are changing the face of the traditional bully.
Cyber bullying is the ever-increasing phenomenon of 24 hours a day, seven days a week online peer bashing. And even without the tell-tale physical signs of conventional bullying (black eyes, torn clothes, missing lunch money), the potential for psychological damage is alarming and no less real.