Global Study Reveals Alarming Rise in Cyberbullying Among Adolescents: Urgent Calls for Action

Feature and Cover Global Study Reveals Alarming Rise in Cyberbullying Among Adolescents Urgent Calls for Action

An international study has revealed that nearly one in six adolescents have encountered cyberbullying, with an increase in such incidents among school-aged children since the onset of the pandemic, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). Conducted across 44 countries and regions, the study involved over 279,000 young participants. In Wales, where approximately 37,000 youths were surveyed, 17% reported being victims of cyberbullying. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey indicates a rise in the proportion of adolescents experiencing cyberbullying since 2018, with figures climbing from 12% to 15% for boys and from 13% to 16% for girls.

England and Scotland also witnessed alarming rates of cyberbullying among their youth. In England, out of over 4,200 respondents, nearly one in five (19%) disclosed being cyberbullied at least once or twice in recent months, with 11% admitting to perpetrating cyberbullying themselves. Similarly, in Scotland, where more than 4,300 young individuals participated, 18% reported experiencing cyberbullying, while 11% acknowledged engaging in cyberbullying behavior.

The report underscores an “urgent need” to enhance awareness among young people, families, and educational institutions regarding the various forms of cyberbullying and its consequences. Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, emphasized the heightened prevalence of cyberbullying amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as social interactions shifted predominantly online during lockdowns. He stressed the imperative of addressing virtual forms of peer violence to safeguard the health and well-being of adolescents and young individuals. With youths spending significant amounts of time online daily, even minor fluctuations in bullying rates can significantly impact their overall health and well-being, warranting comprehensive action to combat cyberbullying as both a health and human rights concern.

Sarah Hannafin, a senior policy adviser for the NAHT school leaders’ union, expressed deep concern over the escalating rates of cyberbullying among children. She highlighted the pervasive nature of online bullying, which can occur anytime and anywhere, underscoring that schools alone cannot tackle the issue. Hannafin urged swift and effective implementation of the Online Safety Act by the government, emphasizing the crucial role of social media platforms in providing a safe online environment.

Responding to these concerns, a spokesperson for the UK government reiterated their commitment to making the UK the safest place for children online through the Online Safety Act. The act mandates companies to take decisive measures to protect children from harmful content, illegal activities, and abuse, including cyberbullying. Non-compliant companies risk facing fines of up to 10% of their global annual revenue, potentially amounting to billions of pounds.

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