Around one-in-three young people across 30 countries, including Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, say they have been bullied online while one-in-five report that they have skipped school because of it.
Those are some of the key findings in a new poll released on Wednesday by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Special Representative on Violence against Children.
More than 170,000 young people between the age of 13 and 24 years participated in the poll through the youth engagement tool U-Report. The participants are 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.
Speaking out anonymously through U-Report, almost three-quarters of young people said social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, are the most commonplace for online bullying.
“Connected classrooms mean school no longer ends once a student leaves class, and, unfortunately, neither do 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.”
Via SMS and instant messaging, young people were asked a series of questions about their experiences of online bullying and violence, including who they thought should be trying to end it, according to UN News.
About 32 percent of those polled believed the governments should end cyberbullying, 31 percent put the onus on young people themselves to stop the harassment and 29 percent cited internet companies as bearing the chief responsibility.
“One of the key messages that we can clearly see from their opinions is the need for children and young people involvement and partnering,” said Najat Maalla Mjid, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. “We’re in this together and we must share the responsibility in partnership.”
The poll results also challenge the notion that cyberbullying among classmates is something unique to wealthier schools.
For example, 34 percent of respondents in sub-Saharan Africa said they had been victims of online bullying. And some 39 percent 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 a Youth Manifesto in 2018, calling on Governments, teachers, parents and each other to help end violence and ensure students feel safe in and around the school – including calling for protection online.
“All over the world, young people in both high and low-income countries are telling us that they’re being bullied online, that it’s 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 help end online bullying and violence, UNICEF has called for authorities to implement bullying and cyberbullying policies.
It also called for the establishment of national helplines for children and young people, advance ethical standards and practices among social network providers.
UNICEF called for collection of better, disaggregated evidence about children and young people’s online behaviour to inform policy and guidance; and teacher and parent training to address cyberbullying and bullying, particularly for vulnerable groups.