Although American adults frequently rate bullying as a serious health concern, a recent poll showed that they have different ideas about which bullying behaviors should make school officials get involved.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health recently asked questions about bullying to a sample of adults from the U.S. The topics included which behaviors they considered bullying and which ones should make school officials take action.

Analysis showed:

  • 95% said schools should intervene if a student threatens a classmate’s physical safety
  • 81% said schools should take charge when a student humiliates or embarrasses a peer
  • 56% said schools should intrude when one is socially isolated

“The key finding from this poll is that adults don’t see behaviors across the bullying spectrum as equivalent,” Matthew M. Davis M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, said.

Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, explained:

“This is concerning because isolating a student socially is considered to be a form of bullying, and a dangerous one. Isolating a student socially may be linked to episodes of school violence and also teen suicide.”

In 2000, 46 states passed laws relating to bullying, while 45 of them require schools to have bullying policies. However, not every state considers the same behaviors to be bullying, and as the poll demonstrated, adults do not have the same views either.

Results also revealed that the behaviors people consider to be bullying include:

  • threatening another’s physical safety- 90%
  • embarrassing or humiliating a student- 62%
  • spreading rumors about a classmate- 59%
  • socially isolating a peer- 48%

Although school officials can’t always identify the bullies until they act out, previous research has identified risk factors that can predict aggression in kids, including:

  • prior physical fights
  • media violence exposure
  • gender
  • low parental involvement
  • physical victimization
  • hostility

Bullying has grown to be a major concern in the public’s eye in recent years, especially after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, and with subsequent school shootings and teen suicides linked to bullying, being rated as one of the Poll’s ‘Top 10’ list of created health concerns in the last several years.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011, which is the newest existing national data, reported by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), showed that 20% of kids in high school reported to have been bullied.

Davis concluded:

“As school starts, this is the perfect time of year to have conversations about how each school can find solutions to the problems of bullying and address this important childhood health problem.”

However, bullying does not just exist in the classroom, it can happen at summer camp and via cell phones and computers as well. Bullying can occur wherever kids are gathered together. Talking with kids about bullying is just as important in the summer as it is during the school year.

Written by Sarah Glynn