One in three young people in 30 countries said they have been a victim of online bullying, with one in five reporting having skipped school due to cyberbullying and violence, in a new poll released today 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. “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. Some 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.”
More than 170,000 U-Reporters aged 13-24 years old participated 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 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.
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.”
To end online bullying and violence in and around schools, UNICEF and partners are calling for urgent action from all sectors in the following areas:
- 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.
- Training for teachers and parents to prevent and respond to cyberbullying and bullying, particularly for vulnerable groups.