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Focus on Preventing Bullying


October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a national public awareness campaign led by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center.

More than one in five students report being bullied. Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety and can cause difficulties with learning. Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for problems at school, sleep difficulties, anxiety and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s a look at some statistics related to bullying, compiled by the National Center for Bullying Prevention:

  • Among high school students, 20 percent are bullied on school property and 16 percent are cyberbullied
  • Among middle school students, 45 percent are bullied on school property and 24 percent are cyberbullied
  • Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of children who were bullied did not report it
  • Children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers
  • Almost three-quarters (74.1 percent) of LGBTQ students were verbally bullied (e.g., called names, threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation

Long-term Impacts of Bullying

Research has associated bullying with mental health problems. A new study reported in JAMA Psychiatry found evidence of direct detrimental contribution of being bullied in childhood to mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. The researchers did find, however, evidence of significant resilience among the children who were bullied. The impacts of bullying were reduced or eliminated within about five years.

They also found that childhood exposure to bullying may partly be a symptom of preexisting vulnerabilities, such as previous mental health difficulties.

The researchers recommend that in addition to programs aimed at reducing bullying, those working to help children and youth should address preexisting vulnerabilities and focus on resilience.


Addressing the Problem

Many communities are undertaking a variety of approaches to reduce bullying. School-based bullying prevention programs may decrease bullying by up to 25 percent. One approach to preventing bullying, suggested in a recent blog post by Susan Swearer, professor with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and co-director of the Bullying Research Network, is teaching kindness.

Swearer argues that responding to bullying with punishment-based approaches does not work and that we should focus on teaching and modeling positive social behavior, like kindness. Kindness programs include may include such things as gratitude activities; volunteer activities or service learning; having students develop activities to help others; facilitating respectful conversations; and work on naming and expressing emotions.

Swearer points to research finding that students who are taught kindness are more empathic, more socially aware and connected and receive higher grades. When elementary students performed three acts of kindness per week they significantly increased their acceptance of peers compared to kids who did not perform three kind acts of kindness.




AnxietyConduct DisordersADHDBipolar DisordersIntellectual DisabilityDepressionAutismGender DysphoriaOCDEating DisordersSpecific Learning DisorderPTSD


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