On June 14, this year in Barnersville, Monrovia, 19-year-old Liberian student attempted to end his life by swallowing four valium tablets because his friends taunted him, bullying him for his reported failure to have immigrated to Canada. “I want to die…leave me to die…let me die!” the half-conscious young man was cried, simply because of the teasing from his friends.
This account seems rather isolated but, a new poll conducted by UNICEF and their partners shows that more than nine out of 10 young people believe bullying is a pervasive problem in their communities; and two-thirds say they have experienced bullying firsthand.
The poll was conducted through U-Report, a rapidly growing youth engagement tool that provides a platform for over 2 million young ‘U-Reporters’ from more than 20 countries. Through the poll, young people were asked via SMS, Facebook and Twitter a series of questions relating to the impact of bullying in their community, their own personal experiences of bullying and what they think can be done to end this type of violence.
More than 100,000 U-Reporters, recruited by partners such as the Scouts and Girl Guides, with an estimated age of 13-30, participated in the poll, including young people from Senegal, Mexico, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mozambique, Ukraine, Chile, Malaysia, Nigeria, Swaziland,
Pakistan, Ireland, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Indonesia, Zambia and through the Global U-Report channel.
“Bullying, including online bullying, remains a largely misunderstood risk to the wellbeing of children and young people,” said UNICEF’s Senior Adviser on Child Protection, Theresa Kilbane.
“To end this type of violence, we must improve public awareness of the harmful impact of bullying, equip teachers, parents and peers with the skills to identify risks and report incidents, and provide care and protection for victims.”
Other findings from the U-Report poll said: One-third of respondents thought being bullied was normal so they did not tell anyone; the majority of respondents who reported being victims of bullying said they were bullied because of their physical appearance.
Bullying was also attributed to gender or sexual orientation and ethnicity; and one quarter of victims said they did not know who to tell.
Over eight in 10 respondents believe that raising awareness, including through teacher training, will help children to feel comfortable reporting bullying is one way to address the issue in schools.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) works to engage children and adolescents on the impact of bullying as part of its global End Violence Against Children initiative including through the U-Report platform and through global social media campaigns (#ENDViolence). UNICEF, together with its partners, also work to strengthen education systems in schools and establish strong referral systems for child welfare.