Bullying is worse, not better. But there is hope.
UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, just released a major report on childhood bullying worldwide. It found that about half of children ages 13 to 15 throughout the globe say they have experienced peer-to-peer violence in and around school. That's 150 million kids. As one UNICEF official who contributed to the report said, "Schools are not as safe as they should be because of bullying, because of corporal punishment by teachers, because of attacks on schools." The report adds that the estimated monetary cost of violence against children in all countries is $7 trillion.
However, the same UNICEF official noted that more children are speaking out against bullying and more teachers are being trained to deal with it. "We have reasons to be optimistic that violence will be recognized as a problem in schools and addressed soon," she said. Self-reported peer violence stands at around 50% in most of the nations studied -- with the U.S. rate slightly lower at 48%. The report is based on data from 122 countries, which are home to 51% of the world's population of children ages 13 to 15.
At the Humanity Project, we see this major report as more proof of the need for increased efforts of all kinds to stop school bullying. We have sensed a growing misunderstanding of the issue in the United States in recent months, a feeling that the serious problem of school bullying is less common now than before. Some folks seem to feel we've won that war. In fact, school bullying is more common today, according to U.S.-based studies and anecdotal reports. These include recent discussions by Humanity Project officials with school administrators, teachers and counselors. LGBTQ students are among the most frequent targets, a school population that is disproportionately bullied. The Southern Poverty Law Center says research consistently shows that “virtually every LGBT student experiences bullying at school.”
The Humanity Project's acclaimed Antibullying Through The Arts and Humanity Club programs have been shown to be effective in helping to curb school bullying -- but in the past several months, we have received somewhat less funding than in 2017 to deliver these free programs to schools and organizations that need them. In light of the new UNICEF report, we are hopeful these funds will be restored soon as more people recognize that bullying hasn't ended in the schools. And that our work as a society to stop school bullying is far, far from over.