LOS ANGELES — According to a new study by the Josephson Institute of Ethics (the largest ever undertaken of the attitudes and conduct of high school students), half of all high school students (50 percent) admit they bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half (47 percent) say they were bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset them in the past year. The study reports the responses from 43,321 high school students. The margin of error is less than one percent.
"If the saying, 'sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me' was ever true, it certainly is not so today,” said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Institute and a national leader and radio commentator on ethical issues. “Insults, name calling, relentless teasing, and malicious gossip often inflict deep and enduring pain," he added. "It's not only the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization that's troublesome. The Internet has intensified the injury. What's posted on the Internet is permanent, and it spreads like a virus – there is no refuge. The difference between the impact of bullying today versus 20 years ago is the difference between getting into a fist fight and using a gun."
The Institute's study also found that one-third (33 percent) of all high school students say that violence is a big problem at their school, and one in four (24 percent) say they do not feel very safe at school. More than half (52 percent) admit that within the past year they hit a person because they were angry. Ten percent of students say they took a weapon to school at least once in the past 12 months, and 16 percent admit that they have been intoxicated at school.
"The combination of bullying, a penchant toward violence when one is angry, the availability of weapons, and the possibility of intoxication at school increases significantly the likelihood of retaliatory violence," Josephson said.
What can parents do? Three online surveys to determine whether one's child is being bullied, whether one's child is a bully, and whether parents are doing all they can to prevent bullying can be found at CharacterCounts.org/bully-quiz.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics has conducted a study of the Ethics of American Youth every two years since 1992. The Institute also administers the national CHARACTER COUNTS! program, a values-based school climate initiative to build character and positive life skills, promote social and emotional learning, and enhance academic performance. More about CHARACTER COUNTS! »
Surveys were conducted in 2009 and 2010 with a national sample of public and private high schools. The margin of error is less than 1%. These statistics have been reviewed by the Department Chair, Decision Sciences & Marketing, Graziadio School of Business & Management, Pepperdine University. Read his statement »
More survey results: See the 2010 Report Card on honesty and integrity.