May 1 (UPI) -- New research suggests bullying and bullying-related behaviors are on the decline at elementary, middle and high schools.
Education researchers surveyed approximately 246,000 students in grades 4 through 12 at 109 Maryland schools over the course of ten years. The result -- detailed in the journal Pediatrics -- suggest bullying is trending down.
"While bullying is a significant public health concern and has received considerable attention from the media and policymakers, these data suggest that things are starting to improve," senior study author Catherine Bradshaw, a professor at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, said in a news release.
Many studies have analyzed the psychological and academic effects of bullying, but few have looked at rates of bullying over the course of several years.
The research included surveys designed to measure the prevalence of different types of bullying behaviors. Students self-reported their experiences with bullies at school as well as their sense of safety and feelings of belonging.
"The findings provide insight into bullying behaviors among a large group of students, but are especially valuable as it's the only study of its kind to report rates of bullying measured over an entire decade," Bradshaw said.
Roughly 80 percent of surveyed students reported feeling safe in their school environments. Feelings of safety increased over the course of the ten-year study. More than a quarter of students who participated in the study reported being the victim of bullying within the past month, and more than half of students reported witnessing an instance of bullying.
But the study showed rates of bullying declined during the decade-long study. Another encouraging sign: The largest decreases in bullying were measured in the final years of the study.
Of course, researchers say the results are also a reminder of the work that still lies ahead.
"The findings show promise that there has been a decrease in the rates of bullying during the years of the study, which contradicts the public's misperception that bullying is on the rise," Bradshaw said. "That being said, the research shows that too many students are experience bullying on a regular basis, including cyberbullying, due to the increasing use of technology and social media -- especially among younger students."