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Bullying statistics and facts

Bullying: facts, statistics and effects

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Curbing bullying at school is a higher priority for educators, policymakers, and parents than ever before. But keeping children safe and promoting healthy relationships at school requires understanding the many dynamics of this complex form of coercive, abusive behaviour. How much do you know about the key facts and stats on bullying among today’s youth? Answer these questions and find out:


1. How prevalent is bullying in Canada?

Answer: Girls and boys are both affected by bullying, but indifferent ways, according to research compiled by PREVNet, an umbrella network of 69 leading Canadian research scientists and 55 national youth-serving organizations. Boys are more likely to be victims of physical bullying, while girls tend to experience more sexual harassment, emotional aggression, and online bullying. Worldwide, boys are more likely than girls to engage in physical bullying behaviour. Girls and boys both exhibit similar levels of electronic, verbal, and social bullying.

2. Are boys bullied more than girls?

Answer: Girls and boys are both affected by bullying, but in different ways, according to research compiled by PREVNet, an umbrella network of 69 leading Canadian research scientists and 55 national youth-serving organizations. Boys are more likely to be victims of physical bullying, while girls tend to experience more sexual harassment, emotional aggression and online bullying. Worldwide, boys are more likely than girls to engage in physical bullying behaviour. Girls and boys both exhibit similar levels of electronic, verbal, and social bullying.

3. Does bullying affect older students more than younger students?

Answer: Research compiled by PREVNet shows that younger children in elementary and middle schools are more likely to bully others than older children in high school. However, physical bullying tends to decline with age, while verbal, social and cyber bullying tends to increase between the ages of 11 and 15. An exception to this trend involves children with autism: according to a July 2013 study that published in the journal Autism, older students with the developmental delay are more likely to be targeted by bullies. The researchers behind this study argue that older students want to follow group norms more closely, and so have less tolerance for the behavioural differences of classmates with autism.

4. Do children who are bullied experience more emotional problems than the bullies themselves?

Answer: Bullied children do have more emotional problems, but bullies have their own troubles—they tend to experience the most behavioural problems. That’s the finding from 2010 research supported by the World Health Organization, which included an overview of the mental health of Canadians ages 11 to 15. The study also revealed that youths who are both the perpetrators and victims of bullying are at a particularly high risk for both emotional and behavioural challenges.

5. Do peers play a major role in bullying?

Answer: According to one study (http://cjs.sagepub.com/content/13/2/41.abstract), in about 85% of bullying incidents that occurred on a school playground, peers watched the bullying happen. This research found that during a bullying incident, 54% of the time peers watched the bully, 25% of the time peers watched the victimized child and 21% of the time peers joined in the bullying. The researchers argue that children who are bystanders to bullying learn about the negative use of power and aggression in relationships, and that over time, bullying behaviour becomes normalized. However, when peers intervened, the bullying usually ended within 10 seconds.

6. Are children with an exceptionality are more likely to be bullied?

Answer: According to research compiled by PREVNet, children who have a physical, psychological, behavioural or learning disability, have a minority sexual orientation, are gifted or are overweight are more likely to be victims of bullying. When it comes to children with autism, the July 2013 study from the journal Autism found that students with the developmental delay are more likely to be bullied at a mainstream versus a special needs school—likely because of the smaller class sizes and higher teacher-to-pupil ratio at alternative schools.

7. Is electronic bullying as serious as physical, social/relational, or verbal bullying?

Answer: PREVNet research reveals the harmful consequences of digital bullying, which can occur via text/picture/video phone messages, emails, chatrooms, websites, and instant messages. Those who have been on the receiving end of electronic bullying are more likely to have psychological, behavioural and academic problems, such as higher rates of depression, bringing a weapon to school, skipping school, being suspended, and failing a grade. Cyber-bullies, meanwhile, have shown higher rates of using substances and engaging in rule-breaking behaviour.

8. Is cyber-bullying conducted equally by both girls and boys?

Answer: In an April 2013 study that surveyed 1,236 teachers in New Zealand, 57% said cyber-bullying is conducted mainly by girls; 42% indicated it was conducted equally by boys and girls; and only 2% said it was conducted mainly by boys. This finding is similar to another 2012 study out of that country, which reported that school staff perceived electronic bullying as performed mainly by girls. However, the teachers in the first study said instances of verbal and social/relational bullying were brought to their attention more frequently than cyber-bullying.

9. Do the effects of bullying negatively impact health and wealth in adulthood?

Answer: Bullying does indeed cast a long shadow—it can lead to many long-term health and social costs, according to an August 2013 study that published in the journal Psychological Science. It found that bullies, victims of bullying, and “bully-victims”—those who fell into both categories—were more likely as adults to be poor, have a harder time holding down a job, and have difficulties with making and keeping friends. All groups were less likely to complete high school or post-secondary school. Bullies were most likely to commit a felony and abuse drugs. When it comes to health outcomes, bully-victims fared worst of all, with a significantly higher rate of becoming a regular smoker, being diagnosed with a serious illness or psychiatric disorder, and recovering slowly from an illness.

10. What can you do to combat bullying?

Answer: Check out the resources below for information about how you and your children can put a stop to bullying in Canada.

—Sharon Aschaiek
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