Bullying, as a form of abuse and sometimes violence among children, is common on school playgrounds, in neighborhoods, and in homes throughout the world. Estimates on the prevalence of bullying vary; however, all findings show bullying to be a pervasive problem. For example, 2014 data from the U.S. Department of Education showed that 32% of students 12 to 18 years of age reported having been bullied during the schoolyear.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the prevalence of bullying among students in grades 6 through 10 (in public schools) is 23.6% (including students identified as both victims and perpetrators). A widely- accepted definition of bullying is that it is a specific type of aggression in which:401) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, 2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and 3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one.
Playground observation research has shown that one incident of bullying occurs every seven minutes. Adult intervention occurs in 4 percent of incidents, and peers intervene in 11 percent of incidents. No interventions take place in 85 percent of incidents.
Additional research shows that between one-fourth and one-third of children report being targeted by bullies annually. Notably lacking are statistics on bullying at very young ages. According to recent research, 6 percent of
kindergarten parents, 7 percent of first-grade parents, and 19 percent of second-grade parents reported that they were aware their child was being, or had been, bullied at school or online (and cyberbullying can indeed start this early).1
Some studies have found up to 30% of students self-reported moderate or frequent involvement in traditional bullying. The prevalence rates of cyberbullying also tend to vary widely. These variations are most likely due to the type and methodology of the investigation; the emerging, unwieldy nature of cyberbullying, and the potential for under-reporting. Thus, the extent of reported cyberbullying ranges from very low (1–4%) to relatively high (49%–53%). In a sample of 900 students between the ages of 11 and 18, almost 19% of respondents reported being cyberbullied two or more times over the course of the previous 30 days. A recent study indicated the most prevalent forms of cyberbullying reported are text messaging, phone calls, and online instant messaging. Researchers also found that students viewed the impact of picture or video-clip bullying as worse than face-to-face bullying. Moreover, students have cited cyberbullying that included widespread and public audiences as the most harmfulforms.32,33
Studies of traditional forms of bullying have found that boys engage in more direct bullying behaviors (physical, verbal) more often than girls, who are more frequently involved with indirect bullying (social exclusion, spreading rumors). Recent research has shown girls are much more likely than boys to report they had been bullied in various ways, except in-person bullying, which happened to boys and girls in roughly equal proportion. Other studies have shown negligible gender differences in cyberbullying as both victims and perpetrators. However, the types of cyberbullying activities and experiences vary by gender. For example, girls are more likely to be called
names and to have rumors spread about them. Boys, conversely, are more likely to receive threats online. It is well established that both girls and boys who are bullied suffer immediate harm as well as long-term mental distress. Victims may withdraw from friends and activities, experience lower self- esteem and higher levels of depression, anxiety, all of which can lead to academic disengagement and decreased academic performance. In the most tragic of cases, bullying and cyberbullying have been linked with increased suicidal ideation and completion.34,35
As mentioned above, up to 30 per cent of students in American schools are frequently or severely harassed by their peers. Only a slim majority of fourth to twelfth graders (55.2 per cent) reported neither having been picked on nor picking on others. Furthermore, bully-victim cycles are found where individuals are both bullies and victims. Numerous surveys of students have found that face-to-face bullying by peers in school is a frequent experience for many children. One in six children report being bullied at least once a week although that figure is as high as 50 per cent if the duration of the bullying is taken as lasting only one week. In another study, 40 per cent of adolescents reported having been bullied at some time during their schooling. However, the percentage of students who report longer term bullying of six months or more decreases to between 15 per cent and 17 percent.36