An old problem is getting new attention in the United States: bullying. Recent cases included the tragic case of a fifteen-year-old girl whose family moved from Ireland.
Phoebe PrincePhoebe Prince hanged herself in Massachusetts in January following months of bullying. Her parents criticized her school for failing to protect her. Officials have brought criminal charges against several teenagers.
Judy Kuczynski is president of an anti-bullying group called Bully Police USA. Her daughter Tina was the victim of severe bullying starting in middle school in the state of Minnesota.
JUDY KUCZYNSKI: "Our daughter was a very outgoing child. She was a bubbly personality, very involved in all kinds of things, had lots of friends. And over a period of time her grades fell completely. She started having health issues. She couldn't sleep. She wasn't eating. She had terrible stomach pains. She started clenching her jaw and grinding her teeth at night. Didn't want to go to school."
Bullying is defined as negative behavior repeated over time against the same person. It can involve physical violence. Or it can be verbal -- for example, insults or threats.
Spreading lies about someone or excluding a person from a group is known as social or relational bullying.
And now there is cyberbullying, which uses the Internet, e-mail or text messages. It has easy appeal for the bully because it does not involve face-to-face contact and it can be done at any time.
The first serious research studies into bullying were done in Norway in the late nineteen seventies. The latest government study in the United States was released last year. It found that about one-third of students age twelve to eighteen were bullied at school.
Examples included being made fun of, pushed, spit on, threatened or excluded from activities. Some students had their property damaged. About four percent reported being the victims of cyberbullying. The study took place in two thousand seven.
Susan Swearer is a psychologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and co-director of the Bullying Research Network. She says schools should treat bullying as a mental health problem to get bullies and victims the help they need. She says bullying is connected to depression, anxiety and anti-social behavior, and bullies are often victims themselves.
What can be done to prevent bullying? That will be our subject next week.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. You can find this story and post comments at voaspecialenglish.com and at the VOA Learning English page on Facebook. I'm Steve Ember.
As the price of higher education continues to rise through a shaky economic recovery, fewer Americans are considering college a good investment, especially compared to other needs for savings.
In a survey of 3,000 people, 63.5% said a college education is still a good financial investment for young adults given rising costs, compared to 79.1% last year and 80.9% in 2008. The declining sentiment is reflected across all age groups - 63.5% of those aged 18-29 said college is a good investment, compared to 76.7% last year. Just 61.5% of those over 65 years old said it is a good investment - 82.1% said the same in 2009.
A separate study released last month by Payscale, an online salary and compensation information company, ranked 852 institutions across the country by the colleges' returns on investment over 30 years.
The July priorities survey, released Tuesday by financial services group COUNTRY Financial, shows a shift in saving priorities through an uncertain economy.
Most Americans - 42.8% - said this year that saving for their own retirement was more important than saving for their child's college education, indicating an increase from last year's 40.7%. Consequently, the proportion of those who prioritized saving for their child's education decreased - to 40.7% this year from 47% last year. This year, 16.5% said they were not sure, marking the greatest uncertainty over the last four years.
'It's understandable why Americans are questioning how to prioritize college education and retirement funding, particularly with the skyrocketing costs in both areas. But with graduates likely to earn $1 million more in their lifetime than non-grads, college remains an important investment in a family's future despite the rising price tag,' said Keith Brannan, vice president of Financial Security Planning for COUNTRY Financial. 'The good news, however, is that people are putting their retirement savings first. You can always borrow to pay for college, but you can't borrow for retirement. With the proper planning, Americans can achieve their financial goals for both.'
This year's proportion of those who prioritize retirement savings, however, is in line with the 43% surveyed in 2007. There was least uncertainty in 2008, and 47.1% prioritized saving for their own retirement, the greatest proportion over the last four years.
Whereas those in the lower-income bracket tended to save for their child's education over their own retirement - 53.2% versus 23.8% for people making less than $20,000 - those on the other end who make more than $100,000 a year erred toward prioritizing retirement savings - 38% said saving for their child's education was more important, 52.5% prioritized retirement.
Almost 31% of those surveyed took out loans to pay for college, and 64.3% of those who borrowed have paid them off. Of those who took out loans, about half said their loans had little to no impact on life decisions like getting married, buying a home or saving for retirement.
But younger respondents reflected greater loan burdens. Of the 18-29 year-olds who took out loans, 40% said education loans have significantly impacted their life decisions, 37.7% have been somewhat impacted, and 14.4% have been affected, but not much. Just 7.9% said loans have not affected their decisions at all.
Younger Americans, however, were also most likely to say parents shouldn't have to pay for any college costs for their children. Of those ages 18-29, 15.2% said students should be the ones to pay for their own education. Across all age groups, more than half of the respondents said parents and children should share higher education costs.