The percentage of students who reported being bullied or cyberbullied reached a record low in 2013, but female students are still victimized at higher rates, according to new data from the Department of Education.
The department on Friday released the results of the latest School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which showed that in 2013, the percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied dropped to 21.5 percent. That's down from 27.8 percent in 2011, and a high of 31.7 percent in 2007. The percentage of students who reported being cyberbullied also fell to 6.9 percent in 2013, down from 9 percent in 2011.
The department's National Center on Education Statistics began surveying students on bullying in 2005.
"As schools become safer, students are better able to thrive academically and socially," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Even though we've come a long way over the past few years in educating the public about the health and educational impacts that bullying can have on students, we still have more work to do to ensure the safety of our nation's children."
Despite the overall drop in bullying and cyberbullying, reporting rates remain low – just more than one-third of students who were victims of traditional bullying and fewer than one-quarter of cyberbullying victims reported the incident to an adult, the data show.
Female students also still consistently experience higher-than-average rates of victimization – 23.7 percent of female students said they had been bullied in 2013, and 8.6 percent said they had been cyberbullied. By comparison, 19.5 percent and 5.2 percent of male students in 2013 said they had been bullied and cyberbullied, respectively.
While there aren't noticeable gender gaps in the location of bullying, female students were significantly more likely than male students to be made fun of, called names or insulted (14.7 percent compared with 12.6 percent), to be the subject of rumors (17 percent compared with 9.6 percent) and to be excluded from activities on purpose (5.5 percent compared with 3.5 percent). Male students who were bullied were more likely than female students to be pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on (7.4 percent compared with 4.6 percent).
Overall, bullied students were most likely to be made fun of, called names or insulted (13.6 percent) or to be the subject of rumors (13.2 percent). The most common forms of cyberbullying were unwanted contact via text messaging and posting hurtful information on the Internet.
Among students who were cyberbullied, female students were more likely to have hurtful information about them posted on the Internet (4.5 percent compared with 1.2 percent), to receive unwanted contact via instant messaging (3.4 percent compared with 1 percent) and unwanted contact via text messaging (4.9 percent compared with 1.6 percent).
Traditional bullying and cyberbullying also impact the behaviors of the affected students.
Among students who were victims of traditional bullying, more than 1 in 10 said they feared being attacked or harmed at school. That fear was slightly more frequent among victims of cyberbullying: about 1 in 8 students who had been cyberbullied said they feared attack or harm at school.
Generally, being the victim of cyberbullying appeared to affect students' behavior more than traditional bullying – students who were cyberbullied were more likely to skip school, to avoid school activities, to avoid specific places at school and to carry a weapon to school.