Prevalence Of Bullying Victimisation

Sometimes bullying and cyberbullying are described as something that we should not really worry about, or something that is part of the “normal” development of children. Other times they are defined as out-of-control “social emergencies”. Where does the truth lie? How widespread are these phenomena in our schools?

Answering this question is not easy as reported prevalence rates vary according to type of bullying, the national and local context in which they are assessed, the instruments that are used to collect information about them and the time frame to which the victimisation question refers (e.g., “during the current school year”, “in the last three months”, etc.).

A recent report on school violence issued by UNESCO (2019) revealed estimates of bullying victimisation prevalence derived from different large-scale surveys, including the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey and the Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSHS). On average, estimates have revealed that approximately 25-30% of children report being bullied. Specifically, 5-10% of students report being victims of bullying very frequently (i.e., weekly or more often). Estimates regarding the prevalence of cyberbullying victimisation are around 10%. This 10% includes both victims of “pure” cyberbullying, who remain a minority, and children who suffer both forms of bullying, traditional and online.

Student victims of bullying and cyberbullying

Let’s imagine what this could mean in the school context.

Beyond cold statistics, prevalence data tell us that in an average classroom of 20 students, approximately 5 or 6 students could be victimized during their schooling years and 1 or 2 of them could be bullied very frequently.

Legend: coloured stick figures indicate students who are potential victims of bullying in the class and red figures indicate students who may be bullied very frequently.