A survey of more than 43,000 high-school students has revealed that about half admit to having bullied someone in the past year, while 43% say that they have been bullied. The study overturns previously accepted dogma–and possibly many people’s own experiences–that bullying peaks in middle school and fades somewhat in the high-school years.
That’s not to say that anyone’s arguing that there’s no bullying in high school; indeed, a recent enormous survey found that the older students get, the more they tolerate bullying. Further, the survey found that people who suffer the most severe bullying in middle school are more likely to continue experiencing it in high school.
There’s certainly enough to worry about here. Kids get past those tough middle-school years, the ones everyone seems to remember with utter misery, and still find themselves on the receiving end of bullying…or find themselves being the bully. Either one is damaging to both parties and to the bystanders.
Just as worrisome? These high-school bullies are mere months away from adulthood in many cases. Their behavior, unchecked, can carry over into their adult lives where they may become the people who harass in the workplace or exclude and mock parents at the playground (coming full circle) or try to throw their weight around with people they perceive as less powerful than they are. In other words, they’re the ones who grow up to be assholes.
Evidence continues to accumulate that taking an attitude of “kids will be kids” does nothing but long-term harm, for the bullied and the bullies. After all, what counts as “teasing” when you’re 13 becomes an actionable offense when you’re an adult. It’s in everyone’s best interest that we adjust our attitudes and start taking these behaviors seriously at a very early age. Pre-emptive anti-bullying programs and adults on the ground dedicated to mediating such incidents should be a requirement for every school.