Bullying is a huge topic in schools, on playgrounds, and in youth sports. And while parents are generally aware bullying is a problem, the natural tendency is to focus on our own children – both in terms of making sure they are not bullied and that they are not bullying others. To get a wider perspective on the scope of the bullying problem and the effect it can have on kids, we’ve put together the following fact sheet.
64% of children who experience bullying do not report it
Though schools, coaches, and teachers have made great strides in providing kids opportunities to report bullying, it can still be a very hard decision for a kid to make. According to data from Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, 64% of children who experience bullying don’t report it. Some kids fear reporting their bully will worsen the torment rather than solve it. Other fear they themselves will get in trouble, or feel ashamed of having to ask for help. This is why it’s important for coaches, parents, and teachers to proactively watch for signs of bullying and offer opportunities for kids to speak up.
57% of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes. (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001)
Bullies thrive through the inaction of bystanders. A bully is often an insecure person who aims to feel more powerful or in control by making another person feel less powerful or less in control. Singling someone out and belittling them in front of peers serves to heighten the satisfaction for the bully while intensifying the isolation and trauma for the person being bullied. When a peer intervenes on the side of the person being bullied, the bully’s influence is diminished and other members of the peer group are likely to join in to help bring the situation to an end. As parents, teachers, and coaches it is important to support and encourage kids to have the courage to be the person who steps forward to intervene.
Cyberbullying starts early – 24% of middle school students report being cyberbullied. Center for Disease Control, 2015)
Many elementary and middle school students have parents who grew up before there was widespread internet access, web-enabled smart phones, or social media. While it may seem too soon for cyberbullying to be a problem for your child it is important to recognize the risk begins as soon as kids go online. As with offline bullying, it is crucial for parents, teachers, and coaches to proactively teach kids how to interact responsibly online, how to report cyberbullying, and that they have safe, supportive, and confidential opportunities to report cyberbullying.
84% of students observed overweight students being teased during physical activities
In a study conducted in Connecticut, more than 1500 high school students were surveyed about weight-based victimization and 84% reported observing overweight students being called names and teased during physical activities, like physical education classes and youth sports. (Puhl, et al., 2011) While the majority of students also reported feeling comfortable stepping in on behalf of the teased students, many did not. As parents, coaches, and teachers it is crucial to make exercise environments a safe place for everyone. Young athletes who experience bullying and weight-based victimization during physical activities are more likely to quit sports altogether, which decreases the likelihood physical exercise will remain an integral component of their lives through adolescence and adulthood.
The most commonly recommended interventions may be the least effective
Interventions that focus on actions the person being bullied can take on their own (walking away, pretending it doesn’t bother you, telling the bully to stop, fighting back) have some of the worst outcomes, according to studies by Davis and Nixon (2010) and research from psychologist Dan Olweus. Instead of placing the responsibility of ending bullying on the person being victimized, that responsibility rests with adults. The reason school systems and sporting organizations have mounted comprehensive anti-bullying programs is because research shows significantly lower rates of bullying in environments where organizations, teachers, and parents take a clear stance against bullying that incorporates all students – not just the kids directly affected by bullying. As parents in a school or sporting community it’s important to proactively take part in the community’s anti-bullying program, because the program’s effectiveness improves with adult participation.