Bullying has long been viewed as a rite of passage for young people today. But bullying is not a normal part of adolescence and is now appropriately considered to be a serious public health problem with long-term consequences. According to national surveys, the prevalence of bullying in schools ranges from 18-31 percent of school children. In recent years technology has allowed for an additional type of aggression—cyberbullying—which takes place through social media, instant messaging, and other forms of digital communication, with data showing that the prevalence of cyber victimization ranges from 7-15 percent of youth.
Recognizing these public health concerns, a group of federal agencies and philanthropic partners asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to appoint a committee of experts to review the wealth of research on bullying that is now available and identify what else must be done to better understand and reduce bullying and its consequences. The committee presented its findings, conclusions, and recommendations in the report Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice (May 2016).
The report’s top conclusions and recommendations include:
- Bullying is associated with harmful short- and long-term consequences both for youths who are bullied and for those who do the bullying. Individuals who bully others and are themselves bullied appear to be at greatest risk for experiencing negative psychosocial problems.
- Multicomponent schoolwide prevention efforts and interventions appear to be most effective. School-based programs with multiple components, involve all students, offer targeted interventions for those at high risk for bullying and support the social and emotional development of students are the most likely to be effective.
- There are common and avoidable misdirections in bullying prevention. Studies indicate that some widely used approaches, such as zero-tolerance policies are not effective in reducing bullying and should be discontinued.
- Stakeholders need common bullying definitions. Federal Agencies and other stakeholders should use common definitions of bullying to accurately understand the prevalence of the problem.
- Better data on bullying are needed. Since bullying is a complex social phenomenon involving everyone in a young person’s social environment, it is important to gather data over time on the prevalence of all forms of bullying and the prevalence of all individuals involved, including perpetrators, targets, and bystanders.
- More information on high-risk groups is critical. Given our increased understanding of high-risk factors for bullying, it is important to gather higher-quality, more focused data on the prevalence of bullying among those who are especially vulnerable to bullying based on factors such as their weight, sexual orientation, gender identity, and whether they have any of a variety of disabilities.
- The impacts of anti-bullying laws and policies needs to be explored. Although further research is needed on their effectiveness, law and policy have the potential to play a significant role in strengthening state and local efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying.
Although bullying behavior has endured through generations, public health leaders, researchers and educators understand the evolving nature of bullying like never before and are committed to preventing it before it starts. StopBullying.gov offers stakeholders a variety of evidence-based tools and resources, including a new online continuing education training developed by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) filled with the latest bullying research and information on best practices. The Academies’ report offers the bullying prevention community a roadmap for continuing to address the issue of bullying through research, data and evidence-based practices and policies. Check out the full report here and stay tuned for more updates from StopBullying.gov.