Anti-bullying policies in most U.S. states aim to protect kids against abuse from their peers in school and online, but their effectiveness varies widely depending on where students live, a study suggests.
Researchers analyzed survey data on bullying from almost 62,000 students in grades 9 through 12 to see how their experiences varied based on the type of laws in their home state.
In states where the laws followed at least one U.S. Department of Education (DoE) recommendation for anti-bullying policies, teens were 24% less likely to report bullying and 20% less likely to report cyber-bullying, researchers found.
The DoE recommends, for example, that laws include explicit descriptions of prohibited behaviors and spell out clear reporting practices and specific consequences.
“Although anti-bullying policies by themselves can’t eradicate bullying, these results suggest that such policies are an important part of a comprehensive strategy for preventing bullying among youth,” said lead author Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler, a public health researcher at Columbia University in New York.
Bullying is one of the most common forms of peer aggression in schools, and both perpetrators and victims may experience mental health problems linked to this behavior such as anxiety, depression or social isolation, Dr. Hatzenbuehler and colleagues noted in an article online October 5 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Picture: Alejandrasotomange (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons