The real cost of bullying in schools

Sure, bullying is nasty. But what about its cost in real terms?

It's reached epidemic proportions in our schools - and digital technology is fuelling the trend. Yet misconceptions about bullying abound.


mean girls

One of them is that bullying is just a matter of kids being kids.

Another is that bullying is something “bad kids” do to “good kids.”

And then there’s the question of the bottom line. We all know bullying is a problem. But how much impact is it really having in dollars and cents?

A new study by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and PwC into the real cost of bullying found 45 million incidents of bullying behaviour occur in Australian schools each year, affecting some 900,000 students. 

What’s more, a quarter of kids who are bullied go on to become perpetrators themselves.

Dividing bullying behaviour into “cyber” and “non-cyber” makes little sense, the study found - because 90 percent of kids who are bullied online also being bullied offline.

Students on the autism spectrum and LGBTI kids are among those most frequently targeted - with around 62 percent of both reporting being bullied once a week.

“This is not an issue of good kids and bad kids.”

Lesley Podesta, CEO of Alannah and Madeline Foundation

But the assumption that bullying affects only those children who are noticeably “different” misses the point. In fact, bullying is an equal opportunity experience, and fully one in four of our children are affected.

Then there’s the issue of the cost of bullying to our society, both immediate-term and over the long term.

Sticker shock: are you sitting down?

Anyone who still believes bullying is a case of “kids being kids” needs to consider the pricetag - estimated at a whopping $2.3 billion per school year group.

The figure includes health services, staff and carer time - as well as ongoing costs over 20 years after leaving school.

“The effects of bullying extend well beyond the schoolyard,” explains Jen Vo-Phuoc, director of PwC Australia’s Health Economics Policy unit. “They include impacts on wellbeing and health, and individual productivity.”

So what’s the solution? 

“The evidence is really clear that you can significantly reduce bullying with prevention,” says Alannah and Madeline Foundation CEO Lesley Podesta. As proof, she points to the experience of schools that have implemented the foundation’s acclaimed eSmart program.

eSmart: prevention that produces

A framework that sits across the entire school community - including teachers, parents and students - eSmart is currently utilised in almost a third of Australian schools. The result? “Those schools have significantly reduced levels of bullying, and when they have incidents they deal with it correctly,” says Podesta.

Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg, child and adolescent psychologist and Family Zone cyber expert, concurs. When the history of cyber safety in Australian schools is written, there will be a chapter devoted to eSmart,” he notes. "Not only does it meet the needs of educators it provides students the skills and knowledge to use the internet in a safe, smart and responsible way.”

Family Zone is proud of its partnership with the cyber experts at the Alannah and Madeline Foundation - and we share the conviction that prevention is the most effective and economical way to make bullying history.

Our world-leading digital management solutions are helping school communities around the globe to achieve this goal.

We can help your school too. Learn more at and

Topics: cyberbullying, bullying, school filtering, screens in school

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