New data reveal that one out of three teens is bullied worldwide

01 October 2018

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Almost one-third of young teens worldwide have recently experienced bullying, according to data released for the first time by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), which is the official data source for the Sustainable Development Goal on education.

The new data show that bullying affects children everywhere, across all regions and countries of different income levels.  They were collected from in-school surveys that track the physical and emotional health of youth. The Global School Health Survey (GSHS) focuses on children aged 13 to 17 years in low-income regions. Similarly, the Health Behavior in School-Age Children (HBSC) targets young people aged 11 to 15 years in 42 countries, primarily in Europe and North America. Bullying refers to violence between peers/students which is characterised as “intentional and aggressive behavior occurring repeatedly where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.”

“Data are the key to change,” said Silvia Montoya, UIS Director. “They can reveal who is affected by bullying and point the way to better programming by both national governments and international and non-government organizations. Over time, trends can point out whether interventions are working. Ultimately, the more knowledge we have, the more we are able to channel resources to children who need help the most.”

Globally boys are slightly more at risk of bullying in schools than girls. The data – which do not include sexual or other forms of gender-based violence – show that more than 32% of boys experience bullying in school, compared to 28% of girls.

Yet when looking at the 10 countries where children report the highest incidences of bullying, the median rates tell a slightly different story. In these 10 countries, a staggering 65% of girls  and 62% of boys report bullying, revealing that where bullying is most pervasive, girls are more widely impacted.

 

External factors also have a role in bullying

Socioeconomic and immigrant status also play a part in bullying, according to the HBSC data on children from Europe and North America. In these regions, socioeconomic status – based on parents’ wealth, occupation and education level – is the most likely predictor of bullying: two out of five poor youth are negatively impacted. This compares to one-quarter of teens from wealthier families.

Finally, also based on the HBSC data, immigrant children tend to be more vulnerable to bullying than their locally-born counterparts. As migration around the world reaches new peaks, it is worth asking whether bullying will further complicate the ability of this vulnerable group to learn. 

UNESCO will release a short report on 8 October 2018, looking deeper at a large number of international data sources on bullying and other forms of school violence, and revealing trends in prevalence over time.

A full version of the report, available in January 2019, will present an analysis of effective national responses to school violence and bullying through country case studies. Together with the annual compilation and analysis of global data on bullying by UIS, these reports will help countries understand the scale of school violence and bullying, and put in place the policies and actions needed to ensure that all children learn in safe, supportive and inclusive school environments, as agreed in the SDG4 framework.

 

What are the main takeaways of the data?

  • One-third of youth globally experience bullying in school.
  • Boys experience slightly higher rates of bullying than girls overall, but in countries where bullying is most pervasive, girls are more vulnerable.
  • Low socioeconomic status is the main predictor of whether young teens in wealthy countries will experience bullying in schools.
  • Immigrant youth in wealthy countries are more likely to experience bullying in schools than locally-born youth.

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For more information, contact:

Amy Otchet, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Montreal (Canada), a.otchet@unesco.org, tel: +1 514 343 7933