Students Say Violence Is Fact Of Life

Bullying and threats of violence are a fact of life in American schools, according to a survey of children and parents released Thursday.

The poll also found that pressure to have sex is seen as a "big problem" by one-third of children age 10 and 11, but that parents are likely to balk at discussing sexual issues with them.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Children Now and the cable TV channel Nickelodeon is part of a joint campaign to encourage family communication about difficult topics.

The findings were released the same week gunfire at a San Diego County high school killed two students. A teen-ager who was said to have been taunted by schoolmates was charged with murder.

Click here for more on kids and guns.

According to the survey, 74 percent of children 8 to 11 say teasing and bullying occur at their school, while 86 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds surveyed said kids are taunted.

Among the older group, 60 percent said there are threats of violence at school, with 38 percent of preteens reporting the problem to pollsters.

The topic that both older and younger children want to know more about, ahead of sex and drugs, is guns in school, according to the survey. It is followed by racism and bullying.

A majority of parents, meanwhile, say growing up today is harder than when they were young.

Nation's Schools Face Threats
As students returned to the California high school where deadly gunfire erupted earlier this week, a rash of worrisome threats at schools across America raised concerns that school violence is becoming a regular part of children's lives.
Click here for full coverage.
Most parents say they have talked to their children about issues including drug use and violence, but two-thirds of parents of preteens say their children initiated the first conversation about the basics of reproduction.

Parental attempts at communication can seem fruitless.

"Even when parents are talking, many kids don't seem to be hearing what they have to say," according to the report's summary of findings.

As many as one in two preteens whose parents say they talked to them about a pecific topic don't remember the conversation. Children also are more likely than their parents to recall such talks as occasional rather than routine.

Parents and schools did come out as top sources of information for children. But kids also rely heavily on media and friends: 37 percent of teen-agers learn from TV and movies and 43 percent learn from buddies, the study found.

Among preteens, the figures are 26 percent for media and 21 percent for friends.

A majority of teen-agers say there is alcohol (58 percent) and drug use (57 percent) at their school, while just 5 percent of younger children surveyed reported substance abuse.

The survey of 823 children ages 8 to 15 and 1,249 parents of children between those ages had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent for the parents' sample and plus or minus 4 percent for the children's.

Nickelodean is a unit of Viacom Inc., as is CBS.

The Kaiser foundation, unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente, is a philanthropy that studies health issues. Children Now is a nonpartisan group focusing on solutions to problems faced by youngsters.

As part of their campaign with Nickelodeon to encourage parent-child communication, the groups are distributing a free guidebook and information on the Internet.

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