KAMPALA/NEWYORK – One in three young people in 30 countries said they have been victims of online bullying, with one in five reporting having skipped school due to cyberbullying and violence.
This is according to a new poll released 4 September by UNICEF and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence against Children.
Speaking out anonymously through the youth engagement tool U-Report, almost three-quarters of young people also said social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, are the most common place for online bullying.
“Connected classrooms mean school no longer ends once a student leaves class, and, unfortunately, neither does schoolyard bullying,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
She added “Improving young people’s education experience means accounting for the environment they encounter online as well as offline.”
Through the poll, young people were asked via SMS and instant messaging technology a series of questions relating to their experiences of online bullying and violence, where it most frequently happens, and who they think is responsible for ending it.
And according to the poll results, 32 per cent of those polled believe governments should be responsible for ending cyberbullying, 31 per cent said young people and 29 per cent said internet companies.
“One of the key messages that we can clearly see from their opinions is the need for children and young people involvement and partnering: When asked who should be responsible for ending cyberbullying, the opinions were equally divided between governments, internet service providers (private sector) and young people themselves,” said Najat Maalla Mjid, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence against Children.
“We are in this together and we must share the responsibility in partnership,” said Mr Maalla in New York at the release of the poll results.
The poll had more than 170,000 U-Reporters aged 13-24 years old participating in the poll including young people from Albania, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, France, Gambia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jamaica, Kosovo, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nigeria, Romania, Sierra Leone, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
The report says that the poll results challenge the notion that cyberbullying among classmates is a uniquely high-income issue.
“For example, 34 per cent of respondents in sub-Saharan Africa said they had been a victim of online bullying. Some 39 per cent said they knew about private online groups inside the school community where children share information about peers for the purpose of bullying,” reads the poll report in part.
Ms Henrietta Foresaid as part of UNICEF’s campaign to #ENDviolence in and around schools, children and young people from around the world drafted an #ENDviolence Youth Manifesto in 2018, calling on governments, teachers, parents and each other to help end violence and ensure students feel safe in and around school – including calling for protection online.
“All over the world, young people– in both high and low-income countries – are telling us that they are being bullied online, that it is affecting their education, and that they want it to stop,” said Fore. “As we mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we must ensure children’s rights are at the forefront of digital safety and protection policies,” said Ms Henrietta Fore.
The report released 4 September recommends that in order to end online bullying and violence in and around schools urgent action from all sectors in the following areas:
The report also says that UNICEF and partners are also calling for implementation of policies to protect children and young people from cyberbullying and bullying, establishment and equipment of national helplines to support children and young people.
“Advancement of ethical standards and practices of social network providers specifically in regards to the collection, information and management of data, collection of better, disaggregated evidence about children and young people’s online behaviour to inform policy and guidance and training for teachers and parents to prevent and respond to cyberbullying and bullying, particularly for vulnerable groups,” reads the report in part.
The report says further that in Uganda, a separate poll was conducted on August 30, 2019 among 4,057 U-Reporters aged 15-24 years old across the country, and 40 per cent said they have been victims of online violence/cyber bullying.
And that another 61 per cent also said that online abuse between young people happens mostly on social networks, especially through Facebook.
The report adds that the Ugandan U-Reporters noted that if they become victims of cyber bullying, they would report to Police, Child Helpline Call Centre – Sauti 116, U-Report 8500, Uganda Communications Commission, political leaders, Uganda Human Rights Commission, counsellors, elders, UNICEF, Courts of Law, parents, teachers, head teachers, class teacher, school disciplinary committee among others.
“To end online bullying and violence in Uganda, the setting up and implementation of strict laws on online bullying, use of social media and internet; sensitizing and creating awareness on the use of social media and the dangers of online bullying,” reads the report in part by U-reporters.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
UNICEF works around the world to end violence in and around schools. These efforts include the organization’s #ENDviolence campaign and Safe to Learn — a partnership between UNICEF, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), UNESCO, other members of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, and UNGEI.
This month, as many children head back to school, and in response to UNICEF’s #ENDviolence Youth Manifesto, UNICEF is calling on parents to help prevent and #ENDviolence. Learn more here.
U-Report is a free social messaging tool that allows anyone from anywhere in the world to speak out on the issues they care about. UNICEF and partners developed the platform to capture a range of voices on critical development issues. U-Report encourages citizen-led development, facilitates responses to humanitarian emergencies and magnifies local voices globally to create positive change.
Adolescent and young people can join the platform by SMS or on social media (Facebook, Whatsapp or Viber) allowing them to respond to polls, report concerns, support child rights and work to improve their communities. Currently, there are more than 7 million U-Reporters are present in over 60 countries.