» A new global campaign to address cyberbullying
04.05.2017 - Education Sector

A new global campaign to address cyberbullying

© Dariusz Sankowski

A multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss the creation of a new global campaign to address cyberbullying and create the framework for a healthy online space took place in London, 26-27 March 2017.

Children and adolescents across the world increasingly connect using electronic channels such as phones, Internet, social networking sites, apps and online games. The vast majority of the online experiences are positive, but unfortunately, some can be negative. Many of the negative behaviours that they can experience in the real world can also happen online. Examples of cyberbullying include mean, unwanted or embarrassing text messages, emails, pictures or videos, and could also take more subtle forms such as exclusion.

Young people are the most affected by online violence

A Microsoft research conducted in 2016 among adults and teenagers in 14 countries shows that 65% of the respondents had been victims of at least one online risk, especially of unwanted contact.

The survey clearly states that young people are more at risk to experience online violence than adults are. In fact, by having higher levels of online interactions they are more exposed to trolling (deliberately provocative messages on a newsgroup or message board to cause general disruption and argument), bullying and to suffer social and academic loss.

The research also provides gender-disaggregated data. It shows that while boys are more likely than girls to be at risk of digital incivility, girls had a greater propensity to lose trust both online and offline and suffer from health problems, such as stress and sleeping disorders.

Cyberbullying undermines the full achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education

Traditional bullying and online bullying are closely connected, both denying equal access to education and acting against the provision of safe, non-violent and inclusive learning environments for all children and adolescents (UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 target 4.a).

The necessity for national education sector to get involved is clear. Evidence from one study shows that 62% of interviewed digital users did not know or were unsure about where to find help when cyberbullied.

Based on available evidence, participants who gathered in London to develop the new campaign to address cyberbullying agreed that the focus should be on children and young people. However, there is also a major opportunity to increase the engagement and support of adults, including parents, teachers, school administrators, youth leaders, coaches, health professionals and others.

A global campaign to address cyberbullying

The call for a global campaign to face this issue was first announced during the International Symposium on School Violence and Bullying. It was co-organized by UNESCO and the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womens University in Seoul in January 2017, during which the UNESCO Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying (SVB) was released.

The Global Cyberbullying Campaign, supported by the NGO ‘No Bully’, wants to engage creative collaboration, decentralized action, and to make available adaptable messages and materials, as well as to provide clear guidance to help drive transformative change. The participants that attended the London meeting came from around the world and included social media and other industry representatives, researchers, civil society partners, young people, ministry of education officials and UNESCO.

This promising initiative could link closely with UNESCO’s programme of work on school violence and bullying (SVB), as part of efforts to protect the health and well-being of young people from online bullying.

The campaign is currently under further development with a planned launch later in 2017. 

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