The Bullying Statistics Parents Need to Know
Bullying means using aggressive actions, words, or behavior to hurt another person. “Some definitions might also include that the behavior needs to be repeated or has the potential to be repeated,” says Bailey Huston, coordinator at PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the effects of bullying, but the reality is that one in five children reported being bullied in school last year. About one-third of students say the bullying occurred at least monthly (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
Here are the bullying statistics that every parent needs to know.
Bullying by Gender
Girls are more likely to be victims of bullying than boys. In fact, the 2016 report from the National Center for Educational Statistics said 23% of females and 19% of males have experienced bullying at school. However, males are more likely to experience physical harassment.
Types of Bullying
Bullying comes in many forms, ranging from physical abuse to name calling. According to stopbullying.gov, a large study of middle schoolers revealed that bullied students experienced the following types of aggressive behavior: name calling, teasing, spreading rumors, physical outbursts (pushing, shoving, hitting, slapping, kicking), leaving out, threatening, theft, sexual comments, and virtual bullying.
The Cyberbullying Threat
About 15% of students in grades 9-12 have experienced cyberbullying, according to 2017 research by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cyberbullying is harmful behavior conducted through technology like texting, social media platforms, video games, and more.
Huston says that cyberbullying is especially destructive because the perpetrator is distanced from the victim. The cyberbully can’t physically see the distress his actions cause—and it’s definitely easier to be cruel behind closed doors.
Where Bullying Occurs
Even though technology makes anonymous bullying easier, most aggressive behavior still happens on school property. The most common location, as reported by the National Center for Educational Statistics in 2016, is hallways and stairwells—maybe because there are fewer adults present in these situations. Other common bullying locations are inside the classroom, in the cafeteria, outside, on the school bus, and in the bathroom or locker room.
Bullying by Race
Students of every age, race, shape, and color can fall victim to bullies. However, African-American students report the greatest number of incidents, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
In fact, one-fourth of African-American students have been bullied at school—which isn’t too far off from the 22% of Caucasian students who report bullying. By comparison, 17% of Hispanic students, and 9% of Asian students encounter harassment.
Bullying by Minority
LBGTQ students perhaps experience the greatest amount of bullying. Consider results from the 2017 GLSEN National School Climate Survey, which studies the experiences of LGBTQ youth in schools. The study reports that a whopping 82% of LGBTQ students faced verbal harassment based on their "sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender” in 2017.
About half of LGBTQ students were cyberbullied, 57% encountered sexual harassment, and 39% had their property damaged or stolen. LGBTQ students weren’t exempt from physical bullying, either: about 37% dealt with physical harassment (like pushing or shoving) and 16% confronted assault (like punching, kicking, and injury with a weapon).
What's more, students with disabilities tend to endure more bullying than their peers, although few studies have been conducted on the matter. Nonetheless, PACER’s says that 60% of students with disabilities report regular bullying (British Journal of Learning Support, 2008).
It’s important to note that bullying based on a student’s race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion can be considered “discriminatory harassment,” so it violates civil rights acts in many states. This is especially true if the bullying interferes with someone’s right to free appropriate public education (FAPE). Your school district is legally required to address bullying in these cases. For more information, check out this article on federal and state bullying laws.
Bullying Effects and Prevention
Bullying has plenty of harmful consequences for the victim, ranging from poor school performance to anxiety and depression. The National Center for Education Statistics says that bullying negatively impacts the victim's perception of themselves in 19% of cases. It also affects their relationships and school work (in 14% of cases) and physical health (in 9% of cases). Victims tend to be prone to stomachaches and headaches, for example. Bullying might also be a factor in someone’s decision to commit suicide.
If you see or experience bullying, the best course of action is asking the bully to stop. Otherwise tell a trustworthy adult about the incident—which 43% of bullied students have done, according to the 2016 report from the National Center for Educational Statistics. Many times, the bully will stop their aggressive behavior after being confronted by a peer or authority figure.
Parents should also teach kids about the harmful effects of bullying, and instill the value of treating others with respect.