Bullying has become a topic that’s being studied and discussed more and more. Rightly so, considering the devastating effects of bullying on the victims. We’ve sadly seen too many teen suicides the last few years caused by bullying.
I come across bullying statistics regularly and you know how it is with statistics: sometimes one numbers says more than a whole list of statistics, no matter how serious a truth they represent.
Here’s the statistic that struck me:
30% of girls and 51% of boys never tell anyone about being bullied
I came across this number in a short article in Group magazine on bullying.(1) The number struck me as really high, so I wanted to find out if it was a reliable statistic.
It was taken from a study done by Clemson University, but unfortunately Group doesn’t mention the publication, or what the study was. Turns out, Clemson University does a lot of research on bullying. Good for them, but it took me a while to find the right one.
So here’s the skinny on this research. It’s a huge study done in 2012 and published in 2013, based on a sample of 20,000 questionnaires handed out in all states and Washington DC. The study is scientifically set up to ensure validity on all levels. In short, at least this study is scientifically reliable.
The quoted statistic in Group Magazine was wrong however. First of all, the percentages were 30% for girls and ‘only’ 41% for boys respectively. I suspect Group made a typo in the boys’ number.
But more importantly: these stats were for 9-12th grade only (2). This is what the full picture looks like when it comes to percentages of girls and boys who don’t tell anyone about being bullied:
Here’s what we can conclude from this:
- Girls are more likely to tell they’re being bullied than boys
- The older students are, the less likely they are to tell what’s happening to them
Interestingly, bullying also sharply decreases over the grades. So as students grow older, they are less likely to be bullied, but if they are, they’re also less likely to talk about it with someone.
And by the way, despite all the sensational media headlines, cyberbullying really isn’t that ‘big’. But we’ll talk more about that in an upcoming post.
What does this mean for youth ministry?
I think the takeaway is that we should stay on high alert for bullying and train our leaders to do the same. Bullying is a big problem and we should treat it as such. If you haven’t implemented any anti-bullying measures in your own youth ministry yet, be sure to do so.
But even more important, youth ministry needs to be a safe place where students can open up about being bullied. We can increase the likelihood of our students talking about it if they are being bullied. Solid relationships between students and leaders, especially small group leaders, are crucial in that sense.
And let’s not dismiss boys as just being boys too easily. They may need a little extra poking and prodding (though lovingly) before they open up.
Also, we can show our students who witness bullying that encouraging the victims to tell someone can make a difference. The bystanders may think that someone has been told, when in truth the victim is keeping it a secret.(1) Bully-dom, Group Magazine, Jan/Feb 2014, page 18. (2) Group suggested this by opening their article with “A huge number of senior highers never tell anyone about the abuse they’re experiencing”, but then quotes lots of other numbers based on all grades before highlighting the statistic of the 30% of girls and 51% of boys who never tell anyone. In that highlight, the distinction ‘9-12th grade’ isn’t made.