Harris Interactive Poll: Bullies are top worry for parents and youth

Posted by Kassy Perry

Bullying more threatening than illegal drugs, sex and gangs

Long Beach, Calif. (September 7, 2011) – Despite recent efforts by legislators and school districts to ensure students are protected from bullies, an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of PeaceBuilders found that parents and children worry more about the dangers of bullies than illegal drug use and believe there should be more resources available to students who experience bullying in schools.
“It seems like there is no way to stop bullies,” said Tessa McClintock a seventh grader from Long Beach. “When kids join Facebook parents are mostly worried about online predators but what happens more often than not is that we are bullied by other kids. They tell us at school to ‘tell an adult’ about bullying, but if we do that it can get even worse. Maybe teachers don’t know what to do either.”

The poll found fathers and mothers have very significantly different perceptions about who is equipped to help their children deal with bullying issues. Mothers were more likely than fathers (96 percent versus 87 percent, respectively) to agree that there should be more resources available in schools to deal with bullying. Two in three fathers agreed that school personnel are prepared to handle bullying incidents while just over one in two mothers felt this way.

“This recent poll shows that parents think they are better prepared to deal with bullies than teachers, who spend the majority of their day monitoring social behaviors,” said Michelle Molina, President and CEO of PeaceBuilders. “We have best practices for kids to learn their multiplication tables, reading and writing. The reality is that our education system also needs access to and funding for best practices that will improve relationships among kids, staff, parents and community leaders.”

This poll results come against a backdrop of recent cases of bullying and an alarming increase in related suicides. PeaceBuilders – a bullying prevention program shown to reduce violence and aggressive behavior while increasing positive, peaceful behavior – issued this survey of parents and youth to determine the level of concern about bullying and a variety of other issues affecting children today, as well as the availability of resources and the preparedness of schools to deal with bullying. In a separate study conducted in 2008, nearly 30 percent of boys and girls in seventh grade reported they had been afraid of being beaten up at school at least once.1 In a recent special issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence, UCLA psychologists found that academic performance was substantially worse for students who were bullied compared to their peers.2

“Professional educators have the opportunity to observe our children in social situations every day, it would be nice if they were given more tools to recognize the signs of bullying so that they’d be more equipped to help deal with these difficult situations before they get out of hand,” said Cathy-Anne McClintock mother of two school age children from Long Beach. “It is important that we work together to stop this damaging behavior, both to protect children who are bullied and to address the underlying issues driving children to bully their classmates.”

Bullying was the top concern for both children and parents when measured against illegal drug use, sexual activity and gangs. Eighty seven percent of children are “at least somewhat worried” about bullying, followed by illegal drug use (80 percent), sexual activity (76 percent)* and gangs (74 percent). Ninety six percent of parents are “at least somewhat concerned” with bullying, followed by equal concern about illegal drug use and sexual activity (95 percent) and gangs (90 percent).

*In the child survey, the “sexual activity” question was asked only of children age 11-18 years old due to the mature subject matter.

Survey Methodology
The parent survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of PeaceBuilders from July 19-21, 2011 among 2,293 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older; 603 of whom are parents/legal guardians of a child age 17 years or younger. The child survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of PeaceBuilders from July 13-21, 2011 among 1,227 U.S. 8-18 year olds. These online surveys are not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. An executive summary of the poll and its methodology are available. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Julia Spiess at 916-658-0144 or

About PeaceBuilders

PeaceBuilders is a science-based, research-validated violence prevention curriculum and professional development program for grades pre-K to 12. Its essence is a common language – six principles, taught, modeled and practiced. These same principles set behavioral expectations, reduce aggression, and transform the climate and culture of any environment to one which is cooperative, productive, and academically successful.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit

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1.California Department of Education, California Healthy Kids Survey (WestEd).
2.The Journal of Early Adolescence, February 2011; vol. 31, 1: pp. 152-173. First published on September 2, 2010. Bullying Experiences and Compromised Academic Performance Across Middle School Grades, Jaana Juvonen, Yueyan Wang, Guadalupe Espinoza.

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