Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Friday 18 March 2011 is Australia’s first National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. Australia’s most prominent anti-bullying expert Brett Murray commissioned McCrindle Research to conduct a study into the extent of bullying in schools. The research involved surveys completed by 1,084 students in Years 7-10 across Australia.

The Extent of Bullying Amongst School Students:

The majority of students (69%) feel that bullying is a moderately to extremely serious problem in their school and community. Only 3% of students state that it is not an issue at all.

Most young people (63%) have been bullied at school. However, whilst school is the place where bullying is most often experienced, almost half of all high-school students (46%) have been bullied at a place other than at school. The four most common non-school environments where bullying occurs are parks, shops, streets and public transport hubs.

Serious bullying- a primary school issue not just high school issue:

Of students who have been bullied, 1 in 5 (19.1%) first experienced serious bullying in Year 7. However for more than 7 in 10 students (72%) who have been bullied, this serious bullying was first experienced in primary school.

The impacts of bullying:

When asked how much bullying has affected them mentally, more than half of all students (54.7%) stated that it has significantly impacted them with nearly 2 in 5 students (38%) reporting that the bullying has affected them either “a lot” or “a great deal”. Only 15% of students bullied reported that bullying “does not affect me at all”.

More than half of all high school students (54.5%) have avoided going somewhere to avoid possible bullying.

“Bullying has moved from private attacks and put downs to new forms of social shaming. Through social networking sites there is a limitless audience and a feeling that the harassment can’t be controlled.” stated Brett Murray.

Bullying- a whole of school problem:

From the experience of those being bullied, the bully is only slightly more likely to be male (55.7%) than female (44.3%). While many bullies are older than the victim (43%), most are the same age (57%).

Significantly, bullying is not just committed by a small group of perpetrators. In fact while a slim majority of students have never bullied anyone, 48% admitted that they had.

“The idea that bullying is perpetrated by small groups of intimidating high school boys is not supported by the research. Much bullying is verbal and now virtual and so it is girls and not just boys, and primary students and not just high school students who bully” writes Mark McCrindle.

“The online environment reduces the social mores and restraints and creates a context for young people to intimidate or shame in a manner that is very different from their usual behaviour.”

The types of bullying in the 21st Century:

While verbal and physical bullying still dominate, new technologies are adding to the problem. The most common form of bullying is verbal, experienced by 81% of students who have been bullied. Nearly 2 in 5 students (38%) reported they had been physically bullied. One-third (33%) reported the bullying was through new technologies- either via social networking websites (such as MySpace or Facebook), Instant Messaging, text message and email.

“Bullying is no longer restricted to the school grounds or public spaces. There was a time when for most young people the home offered a sanctuary from bullying and harassment however now, with their always-on technology, cyber bullying can take place anywhere, anytime and spread far more quickly” noted Mark McCrindle.

Bystander behaviour:

The theme of this inaugural National Day of Action Against Bullying is “Bystander Behaviour”. Only 8% said they would not step in and try to stop bullying as “it’s not my problem” and a further 4% wouldn’t intervene due to the chance of being hurt or bullied themselves. However more than 1 in 3 (36.6%) would step in at all costs, and a further 52% would intervene if it was safe to do so. So almost 9 in 10 Australians (88.3%) have a value, and a willingness to try to stop bullying they observe.

"Australia has always been the land of the ‘fair go’ where helping others out whether they be a mate or a stranger is a national value. Our research highlights that helping someone being bullied is still the dominant response” stated Mark McCrindle.

Who do students tell?

85.8% of students said they felt like they had someone to go to if they are bullied. The most common place to debrief is with parents (38.4%), closely followed by telling peers (36.2%). Other people who regularly become confidants after bullying has occurred are teachers (19.4%), other family members (18.4%), and a small percentage informing school counsellors (7.5%).

However, nearly 3 in 10 students (27%) reported that they did not tell anyone about the bullying.

Whilst speaking to someone about being bullied seems to solve the problem for some (23%), or reduced the amount of bullying (36%), a significant number of students (41%) reported that telling someone either made no difference or in fact in some cases it made the problem worse.

“While most schools now have clearly defined anti-bullying policies, school leaders can only take action if they hear about the bullying, yet only a quarter of bullying (27%) is reported to a teacher or school counselor” noted Brett Murray.

Source: Survey conducted by Brett Murray completed by 1,084 school students in Years 7 – 10 across Australia.