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Good News! Researchers Say Bullying Is On the Decline

According to a new study, bullying of grade school students has been steadily dropping over the last 10 years.

Bullying in Elementary Schoolyard Lopolo/Shutterstock
While it seems like every other day there's another story about bullying making the news, a new study from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health has just revealed that the act is actually on the decline.

The study—called "Ten-Year Trends in Bullying and Related Attitudes Among 4th-12th Graders"—surveyed nearly 250,000 students in more than 100 different elementary, middle, and high schools in Maryland. Not only did the researchers find that cyberbullying has decreased since 2005, but so has physical, verbal, and relational bullying.

Physical bullying includes being pushed or slapped; verbal bullying includes being threatened; and relational bullying involves the spreading of rumors. All three types of harassment were tracked, and all three fell by about 2 percent every year over the last decade.

And while the study also revealed that between 13 percent and 29 percent of students said they had been bullied in some way during the prior month, the overall rate of all four types of bullying significantly decreased over the course of the 10-year survey period. The researchers also found a 1 percent to 2 percent drop per year in the rate by which students instigated bullying themselves. And over time, fewer students indicated that they had witnessed bullying—from 66 percent to 43 percent over the decade.

Good news all around—but what's the reason for the drop? The researchers aren't exactly sure, though study lead author Tracy Evian Waasdorp told US News that policy changes and increased awareness of bullying nationally are possibly likely factors.

"The good news here is that some of the national attention to this important public health issue appears to be having a positive impact," she explained, before adding that a large proportion of students are still victims of or witnesses to bullying. "We need to continue to monitor bullying to ensure that these decreasing trends do not plateau or take a turn for the worse."

In an accompanying editorial, Stephen Leff, co-director of the Violence Prevention Initiative at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, underscored the importance of the role of clinicians in providing proper guidance by recommending several key points to parents and children, icluding things like recognizing the places where bullying often occurs, like the lunchroom, the hallways, or during recess, and establishing a point person at school to help the child navigate.

"Although the notable improvement over the past 10 years in rates of bullying should provide us with encouragement," he explained, "we need to sustain our focus to continue the decrease in bullying and victimization in schools across the nation."

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Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.