GOCF Continues to Unite to Support Anti-Bullying

April 17, 2014

ATLANTA – The Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF) promotes efforts to strengthen Georgia’s youth and families by providing information and awareness on youth development issues, including anti-bullying. This year, over 13 million children will be bullied at school, on the playground, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones and on the streets of their towns, making bullying the most common and prevalent form of violence young people face in this country today. According to a national study conducted in 2010 by the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education, 28% of students in grades 6-12 reported having been bullied at school, with the highest percentages being reported in middle school (for example, 39% of 6th-graders where bullied, compared to only 20% of 12th-graders). Additionally, with the increased use of technology, “cyber-bullying” has become a growing issue as well.  According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 16.1% of high school students have been electronically bullied, including being bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting.

Bullying is not just a national concern, but something that affects communities in Georgia as well. According to the YRBS 2011 report, 19.1% of high school students in Georgia reported being bullied on school property, and 13.6% reported being electronically bullied in the previous year. It is also evident that bullying in middle school is even more of a problem in Georgia. In a recent Georgia Student Health Survey, 22% of 6th-grade students reported being the victim of bullying in school, while 37% reported being chronically picked on. Even more troubling is that these numbers do not even represent the full scope of the problem. According to another study in 2010 conducted by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, 64% of children who were bullied did not report it; meaning only 36% of bullying victims actually reported the bullying.   

The effects of bullying can have significant impact on both child and teenage students. Victims of bullying have been shown to have an increase in depression, higher absenteeism, and higher dropout rates from school, and students who are bullied often suffer from anxiety, fear, withdrawal, low self-esteem, and poor concentration. Additionally, youth who bullied others in middle school are shown to have at least one criminal conviction by age 24, and among students of all ages, homicide perpetrators were found to be twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied previously by their peers.   

It is increasingly evident that bullying is a serious issue that does occur among our adolescent population, but Georgia is leading the way towards making strides to combat bullying with ongoing anti-bullying support. Georgia was the first state in the U.S. to adopt an anti-bullying law (enacted in 1999), and today is now one of 44 states that continues to uphold this law. More recently in 2010 with the passing of Senate Bill 250 and in 2011 with House Bill 142, Georgia’s anti-bullying laws have been strengthened to better define and address school bullying. Georgia is also showing continued support with the Georgia Children’s Cabinet’s Prevention and Awareness Month which includes Anti-Bullying initiatives. GOCF along with other agencies within the Cabinet have spread anti-bullying resources and made them available on their websites for greater awareness and access. In addition, GOCF holds a statewide youth summit with over 600 youth in Georgia, where one of the topics discussed is bullying prevention.     

Because of the wide-spread and growing amount of bullying, it is more important than ever for parents and teachers to talk to kids and young adults about bullying. Each community in Georgia plays an important role in helping children and families find the strength they need to combat the issue of bullying. For teens and children who feel they are being bullied or who witness bullying of others, it is important to address the matter with a parent, teacher or other trusted adult right away. For a useful national anti-bullying and cyber-bullying organization specifically for kids and teens, please go to www.stompoutbullying.org. To see more statistics on bullying and how to prevent this issue, see these resources atwww.children.georgia.gov/current-projects. To learn how you can further support the anti-bullying campaign and throughout the year, visitwww.gadoe.org to access the “Bully Prevention Toolkit,” or go to the National Bullying Prevention website: www.pacer.com/bullying.