How to Reduce Bullying and Increase Kindness, According to Tweens

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Nearly two-thirds (62%) of 9- to 11-year olds say they have been bullied at least “once or twice” and children who say they prioritize “caring about others” are far less likely to bully and more likely to reach out to other kids in kindness, according to a major national survey commissioned by Cartoon Network.

The survey was designed by VJR Consulting in consultation with the Making Caring Common project (MCC) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. According to the survey, a vast majority (70%) say it would help kids their age be kinder if adults in charge of our country set a better example of how to treat others.

More than half (58%) of kids who have seen someone getting picked on or being left out say one of the reasons they sometimes don’t help is they don’t know what to do or say. Many are also worried that they’ll make things worse (46%). More than a third (37%) say they sometimes don’t help because they are afraid other kids will make fun of them, and 22% say they sometimes hold back because they don’t have anything in common with the kid who is getting left out or picked on.

While the government measures the prevalence of bullying behaviors among middle and high school students, prevalence data among elementary school students is rare. The nationally-representative survey of more than 1,000 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds also found that the values kids are taught really matter. More than three out of four children (77%) place a higher priority on personal happiness, getting good grades, or having good friends than on caring about others (23%).

But children who say that caring about others is “very important” are twice as likely as other kids to say they have gone out of their way “many times” to do something kind for another kid, such as someone who was new to their school, having a problem, or being picked on or left out (53% vs. 27%); and they are half as likely to say they have ever bullied another kid (16% vs. 34%).

“The results of this important survey powerfully convey both that bullying is a pervasive problem at young ages and that children want guidance about how to deal with it,” said Making Caring Common’s Faculty Director Rick Weissbourd. “As educators and parents, it’s vital for us to give children tools for preventing and challenging this tough, damaging problem.”

Other survey findings include:

  • 77% of 9- to 11-year-olds say they have witnessed bullying (50% once or twice, 27% many times)
  • 64% say they have tried to help someone being bullied (47% once or twice, 17% many times)
  • 62% say they have been bullied (48% once or twice; 14% many times)
  • 96% of kids say the adults in their family set a good example for how to treat others with kindness, 93% say the adults in their school do, 46% say the adults in our government do
  • When asked to pick which is “most” important to them, fewer than one in four (23%) choose caring about others, while a total of 77% select some other priority such as being happy (35%), getting good grades (23%), or having good friends (17%)
  • When asked which is most important to their parents, only 14% said “caring about others” compared to 27% who said “good grades” and 56% who said “being happy”
  • 77% said it would help kids their age be kinder if there was someone who could give kids ideas about what to do or say in tough situations and 66% said it would help if they could spend more time with kids who are different from them

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