Bullying among students generally on the decline

Public awareness and media attention has created a distorted view of the prevalence of bullying, academics sayA newly published review conducted by Professor Ken Rigby from the University of South Australia and Professor Peter Smith at Goldsmith College, London, has revealed that in published reports obtained from 27 countries between 1990 and 2009 approximately 75 per cent reported a significant drop in student reported bullying. (Eleven per cent reported an increase in occasional bullying).
Anti-bullying expert and lead researcher Professor Ken Rigby from UniSA’s School of Education says growing public awareness and media attention has created a distorted view of the problem, but stresses more still needs to be done to combat the problem.  
“Mainly I think the perception is due to the considerable raising of alarm about bullying and its effects over the past 15 years or so, and the increase in the reporting of serious incidents,” Prof Rigby says.
“Stressing the serious effects of bullying is one understandable way of getting attention to the problem. Unfortunately doing so distorts the picture and takes attention from the many positive things that can be done, and are being done around the world, to address the problem more effectively.
“All this does not mean that the problem has been solved – far from it. The reductions in bullying following the use of sound anti-bullying programs are quite modest in size – around 20 per cent. There is still much more to be done, and much more can be done by applying the knowledge that has been accrued in recent years.”
He says the increased uptake of anti-bullying programs and greater awareness and reporting of mental health problems caused by bullying such as anxiety and depression may have contributed to the inaccurate public perception. While traditional forms of bullying – defined as repeated aggressive behaviour involving an imbalance of power between perpetrators and their target – are in decline, the prevalence of cyber bullying is less clear.
“Findings relating to cyber bullying are much less conclusive. We were able to locate only two studies relating to trends in the prevalence of cyber bullying,” he says.
“The findings reported in England suggest that cyber bullying, specifically the use of abusive text messages and emails, increased rapidly as cyber technology became more and more accessible to students; but that more recently it has not become more prevalent. More research needs to be done before any conclusions can be drawn; this is particularly important as the development and use of newer cyber technology may lead to an increased capacity of students to engage in a range of cyber bullying forms and a corresponding rise in its prevalence.”