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Fast Facts: Prevalence of bullying

How common is bullying amongst students in schools?

Australian research suggests that up to one in four students have experienced some level of bullying. Researchers have made different findings about how common bullying is, largely due to differences in how they define 'bullying'. However, we do know that most young people do not engage in bullying behaviour.

Is there a pattern to bullying?

Australian research has revealed that bullying behaviour peaks in the middle primary school years and the first year of high school. This appears to be related to the rapid changes in the social skills and social demands for students at these times.

Some other general patterns of bullying have been identified. Younger children are more likely to bully others physically or verbally, and then as they get older social bullying behaviours increase (including exclusion and manipulation). Online bullying (Cyberbullying) increases when students begin to have greater access to online communication and mobile phones.

Is bullying increasing?

The fact that we are hearing a lot about bullying these days may well be a positive sign that we are taking it seriously and exploring ways to reduce it. Australian researchers have suggested we are more aware of the potential impact of ignoring bullying, and willing to take the necessary positive action, rather than the bullying problem actually increasing.

Why is it hard to know exactly how common bullying is?

Children and young people often don't tell adults about bullying. Sometimes children and young people don't want their parents or teachers to become involved as they are afraid of what might happen if the person who is doing the bullying finds out they have told. Sometimes, students simply don't think to ask for adult help or they don't think anyone will believe them or could help even if they told.

Next: Impact of bullying.

Download the complete set of Fast Facts: Bullying in Schools (PDF, 210KB).