School Bullying Is Down. Why Don’t Students Believe It?

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If Bullying doesn’t discriminate. I learned that the hard way as an adolescent. Bullies don’t care if you are their friend. They don’t care if you cry yourself to sleep at night over their words. They don’t care if you’re an athlete, or an artist, or an academic. They don’t care if you have good grades or bad grades, new clothes or old clothes.

This may seem very different from what you envision when you think of who the bully is, and who the victim is. But as someone who was bullied, I can tell you this: I didn’t fit the stereotype, and the more I became aware of friends and peers bullying me, the more I realized just how little bullying has to do with the victim.

There has undoubtedly been a lot of awareness brought to the subject in recent years. Kids committing suicide because of bullying is just heartbreaking, and the harsh reality surrounding bullying has led every single state in the U.S. to implement laws against it in schools. Over the last 10 years, many districts have created new policies to ensure mutual respect is upheld in the school environment.

The awareness around bullying has been supported by pop culture and the news media as well, which have exposed the lasting damage that children spewing hate on one another can cause. Social media has become a hub for campaigns to thrive, no matter a child’s gender, sexual preference, skin colour, learning abilities, etc.

And marginalized groups have found solidarity in social media campaigns such as It Gets Better and World Autism Awareness Day, underlining the message that everyone is worthy of learning in a safe environment.

I could tell you some incredibly sad facts about bullying, and while you should certainly educate yourself to better understand the extent of the problem, I’ll let you do that on your own time, by reading here, because what I want to focus on is the GOOD NEWS.

According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, bullying rates are down, and that’s something anyone who has fought to create safe spaces should feel proud of.

The study reveals that, while in 2005, 28.5% of students reported experiencing bullying, by 2014, that number had dropped by more than half, to 13.4%.

“Occasionally, there is some good news out there,” says Catherine Bradshaw, a professor and associate dean at the University of Virginia and one of the study authors. “There are some things that are improving.”

The study, which reviewed the responses of almost 250,000 Maryland students in grades 4 through 12 to an annual school survey, found significant declines across every category, which included behaviours such as pushing, slapping, threats, and spreading rumours or negative online posts.

According to Ron Avi Astor at the University of Southern California, this research belongs to part of a greater trend. “There’s strong international data showing these reductions not only in schools, but in communities and families,” says Avi Astor. “Child abuse, violence, murder rates, they’ve hit record lows. There’s something normative happening in societies, not just schools.”

It is believed bullying statistics have decreased as a result of increased awareness, and evidence-based practices and policies. But, to keep the numbers dropping, do we need to keep kids and adults concerned about bullying?

“Our perception of how common something is, is very important,” says Bradshaw, who notes that awareness regarding such positive changes can continue to help improvement.

 


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