20% of students in grades 6-12 report experiencing bullying.
30% of students report that they have bullied others.
70% of staff members report witnessing bullying in their school.
15% of U.S. students in grades 9-12 report experiencing cyberbullying through texting, Instagram, Facebook, or other social media.
59% of parents reported talking to their children about internet safety after cyberbullying occurred.
34% of parents reported notifying their child’s school about cyberbullying.
57% When Upstanders intervene or interrupt, the bullying behavior stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
25% Bullying decreased by up to 25% when school-wide bullying prevention programs are implemented.
Traditionally Marginalized Students
Among LGBTQ+ students…
70% report experiencing name-calling or threats as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
63% report experiencing discriminatory policies based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
18% report having been taught negative classroom content regarding LGBTQ+ history or topics.
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time. Stop bullying on #Day1!
A Deeper Look at the Numbers
Understanding bullying data is just one part of preventing and interrupting bullying. The information available from research depends on terms, definitions, and measures. When students are surveyed about their experiences with bullying, their answers may vary depending on how or when a question is asked. The information below will look closer at the “what, how, why, and who” of bullying so that you can start conversations about how to prevent it in your community.
What is Traditional Bullying?
Bullying is any intentional, unwanted, and harmful threat or action that includes a real or perceived imbalance of power; the action is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.
It always includes:
- Aggressor– The individual or group participating in bullying behaviors that are unwanted and harmful. Their actions may include a real or perceived power imbalance.
- Target– The individual(s) at whom the bullying behaviors are directed. The negative effects that the target experiences may be invisible to others.
It often includes:
- Bystanders– Any individual who witnesses, or hears about, bullying behavior but does nothing to intervene.
- Upstanders– An individual who intervenes by interrupting and reporting bullying, and reaches out to the target for support.
Types of Traditional Bullying
Verbal bullying – repeated teasing, name-calling, inappropriate comments (ex. slurs based on race/ethnicity or sexual orientation), repeated taunting, repeatedly threatening to cause harm.
Social/relational bullying– hurting someone’s reputation or relationships by intentional exclusion, telling others not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors, or publicly humiliating or embarrassing another person.
Physical bullying – hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, making cruel or rude hand gestures. (7)
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is any threat or action in the digital world that is intentional, targeted, unwanted, and harmful. It can happen through social media posts, chats, video games, images/videos, e-mail, or texting. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time and may include a real or perceived power imbalance. Like traditional bullying, cyberbullying also includes a target and aggressor and may include bystanders and Upstanders.
Possible Examples of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is intentionally harmful, targeted, unwanted, and potentially repeated online actions that may appear to the target:
- in a public or private context;
- anonymously or through a known identity, alias, assumed identity, or stolen identity;
- by means of text messaging, phone calls, e-mails, chat rooms, direct messaging, group messaging, social media platforms, sharing, posting, live-streaming, video chat, or any other method of digital communication.
Harmful messages or content could include:
- Memes, written text, digital art, photographic images, Unicode, emoji, videos, audio files; or any digital media content;
- Public sharing of an individual’s information; or any nonconsensual communication of an individual’s information including “revenge porn”;
- Transmission of malware, spyware, hijackers, trojan horses, or any type of virus expression;
- Threats suggesting an intent to cause physical or emotional harm;
- Real or fabricated claims of stalking or surveillance of one’s home, workplace, place of worship, etc.;
- Spreading of rumors or false information;
- Intentional exclusion from social events or online communities.
Rates of Cyberbullying
In the U.S., 59% of teenagers report experience cyberbullying at some point. Almost half were called offensive names while online or texting (42%) and roughly one-third were subjected to false rumors (32%). Approximately one-quarter reported having unwanted explicit images sent to them online or through texting.
Increasingly, cyberbullying acts are carried out anonymously or through identity theft. Young people, educators, and parents should all be cautious of these dangerous forms of cyberbullying and start conversations about internet safety. (9)
Cyberbullying on Anonymous Apps
Anonymous apps such as Whisper, Ask.FM, YOLO, LMK, Fess may pose an increased risk of cyberbullying. Many of these anonymous apps are not formally associated with an individual’s identity, making it easier for individuals to violate social norms for respectful interaction. (10)
The anonymity of these apps can potentially cause:
- Increased expression of negative emotions related to sadness or anger;
- Increased levels of aggressive or violent online behavior;
- A decrease in inhibition related to the sharing of private information;
- An increase in aggression levels toward other users.
Researchers find that when less constrained by social norms, individuals are more likely to engage in aggressive or violent behavior. The anonymous setting, according to social psychologists, can decrease inhibition related to the sharing of information, potentially increasing the disclosure of sensitive, private information. Using websites or apps anonymously can lead to increased levels of aggression; destructive actions such as the malicious posting of private material.
Young people should use anonymous platforms cautiously, always safeguard their private information, and share their experiences with trusted adults. Educators should consider how school policies can encourage students to come forward about their experiences with anonymous apps, however, state laws vary regarding the school’s responsibility to address cyberbullying. In order to support safe habits, parents and educators should welcome students to discuss both positive and negative experiences online.
Why do Students Participate in Bullying & Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is more common than you might think. It happens most among students who attend school together. Although cyberbullying could happen to anyone, it is most likely to affect students who attend schools with higher levels of traditional bullying.
Many factors that lead to traditional bullying may cause online bullying as well. Online aggressors report higher levels of anger, depression, and impulsivity. Similarly, students with low self-confidence or a desire for social control are more likely to engage in cyberbullying. Children who are given excessive or unmonitored screen time experience higher rates of cyberbullying. Finally, young people who share too much personal information are more likely to be targeted by cyberbullying via privacy attacks.
More than half of parents spoke to their children about internet safety following cyberbullying incidents. While certainly important, we encourage parents to take a more preventative approach by discussing cybersafety regularly starting from a young age and monitoring their child’s internet use.
Overall, reported experiences of traditional bullying were higher for females but levels of physical bullying were more common among male students. Females, on the other hand, are more likely to report being subjected to rumors– both online and offline– through various forms of social bullying.
It is difficult to know exactly why students choose bullying behaviors, therefore, we should avoid stereotypes and labels (ex. “bully” and “victim”) associated with these events. It is more important that we encourage students to join together in creating positive change by interrupting and reporting these behaviors and reaching out to the target with a compassionate offer to help.
The Harmful Effects of Bullying
Bullying is a serious educational issue and a matter of public health and safety. It creates a climate of fear and panic within schools, on playgrounds, and throughout neighborhoods – and in today’s digital age, bullying is carried out after school hours over the Internet.
Experiences with bullying have the potential to cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and difficulty concentrating. Individuals targeted by bullying behaviors may also be at an increased risk for substance abuse, excessive school absence, lesser academic achievement, and self-harm or suicide.
Warning Signs of Experience with Bullying or Cyberbullying
Encouraging students to look out for their peers starts with raising awareness for the potential signs that someone is experiencing bullying. Bullying can happen to anyone and the signs can be difficult to notice. Not all students respond to bullying in the same way, but there are some potential warning signs to be mindful of:
- Avoidance of social situations or friends who were once a normal part of a young person’s life;
- Unexplained injuries or bruises, efforts to hide injuries;
- Loss of interest in hobbies, activities, schoolwork, attending events;
- Increased feelings of self-pity, victimization, helplessness; sudden declines in self-confidence or self-esteem;
- Internet, social-media or mobile-device addiction;
- Increased illness, headaches, faking illness;
- Feelings of depression or anxiety related to attending school;
- Lost or broken personal items;
- Sudden changes in eating habits; skipping meals or binge eating;
- Sudden changes in sleeping habits; difficulty sleeping or avoidance of sleep.
How To Prevent and Interrupt Bullying
Anyone can be an Upstander by noticing the warning signs, interrupting bullying, reporting it, and reaching out to the target. The best way to prevent bullying is to be an Upstander and encourage others to do the same.
School administrators, staff, educators, parents, and community members can help prevent bullying by discussing it in classes, building a safe school environment, and by creating a comprehensive bullying prevention program. Effective programs promote collective responsibility among all students and staff to prevent, interrupt and report bullying.
Schools can download and implement Tyler Clementi Foundation’s #Day1 Campaign. It is an effective, immediate and free way to reduce bullying, harassment, and humiliation. #Day 1 can be completed on the first day of school or at any time during the school year. Our powerful yet simple program requires that a trusted adult declares that bullying will not be tolerated and that all students have a responsibility to keep one another safe from harassment and humiliation. Then, all students take the #Upstander pledge, which is their public agreement to act as Upstanders by interrupting bullying, reporting the behavior, and reaching out to the target with compassion and empathy.
Another program model for school leaders to consider is Restorative Practices (RP). These practices work proactively to prevent bullying before it begins. RP brings targets and aggressors together in conversation with their peers to encourage students to grow in their awareness of intent and impact. RP has been shown in some cases to reduce disciplinary actions and improve student relationships.
Finally, many of us have opportunities to address bullying through legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. This includes the proposed Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act that will grant increased protections from online and offline bullying for college students.
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Bradshaw, C.P., Sawyer, A.L., & O’Brennan, L.M. (2007). Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, https://jhu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/bullying-and-peer-victimization-at-school-perceptual-differences–4.
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