Half of all 14-year-olds are the victims of bullying, and cyberbullying is now one of the most common forms of abuse, a major survey of victimisation in schools shows.
The study of 15,000 children by the National Centre for Social Researchin the U.K found that although many teenagers try to stop parents getting involved or informing the school, when they do so, the child is significantly less likely to be suffering from bullying two years later.
Cyberbullying – by mobile phone, email and on websites – is now as common as name-calling among teenagers, the survey found. Pupils also reported threats of violence, actual violence and being “frozen out” by their friendship groups. A minority said they had been forced to hand over money or possessions to bullies.
The Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, which has been tracking 15,000 children who turned 14 in 2004, came as the schools secretary, Ed Balls, launched anti-bullying week yesterday.
The Tories simultaneously highlighted figures showing that just 90 pupils were excluded from school last year for bullying, which shadow ministers claimed proved the government had been too lax on poor behaviour.
The study coincided too with the release by Mobo award-winning hip hop artists N-Dubz of an anthem for Beatbullying. The song, R U Cyber Safe, is the theme for Anti-Bullying Week which began on November 16.
Yesterday’s research found that 47% of 14-year-olds , 41% of 15-year-olds and 29% of 16-year-olds reported being bullied. The children most likely to be bullied were the most vulnerable in the class. Those with special educational needs, who were disabled or were in the care of the local authority were much more likely to be targets.
On average, children who were bullied went on to get two GCSE grades lower than children who were never bullied and were then more likely to drop out of school at 16.
Girls were more likely to be victims and cited cyber-bullying, name-calling and excluding victims from friendship groups as the most common forms of bullying. Boys said they were more likely to to be threatened with violence or have possessions or money taken.
Balls said: “It’s really important that young people can use new technology and the internet to learn, have fun and stay in touch with their friends. But we also know that mobile phones or computer screens can be used to taunt and bully young people, which can have devastating consequences. I want parents to feel confident coming forward and reporting bullying incidents to schools, as we know this helps to stop bullying continuing.”
YouTube, the video streaming website, deals with dozens of complaints of online harassment each week, despite having tools built into the the site to allow people to block users they don’t want to view their postings. It has a team of moderators who remove any footage involving violence, or where people claim their privacy has been invaded.
Next week, it is launching a programme with the charity Beatbullying to train 60 “cyber-mentors” – young people who can give advice on how to tackle online bullying.
The Conservatives highlighted previously published government figures showing that in addition to the 90 children who were expelled from school for bullying in the last year, 5,750 children were suspended.
Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, said: “Bullying makes far too many children’s lives a misery. But these figures show that, in the vast majority of cases, bullies are returned to the same school as their victims after a short punishment, rather than being expelled.
“The key to tackling bullying is giving teachers the powers they need to crack down on bad behaviour… That’s why we would give schools the power to take a zero-tolerance approach towards serious offences such as bullying and give teachers the tools they need to maintain discipline in the classroom before it spirals out of control.”
A spokesman said those changes would include scrapping a pupil’s right to appeal against an exclusion