Around one-in-three young people across 30 nations said they have been bullied online, while one-in-five reported they have skipped school because of it, according to a new poll from UNICEF.
The poll by the U.N. Children’s Fund and the United Nations special envoy on violence against children found almost three-quarters of the young people they surveyed experienced bullying most commonly on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
“Connected classrooms mean school no longer ends once a student leaves class, and, unfortunately, neither does schoolyard bullying," UNICEF's executive director, Henrietta Fore, said in a statement. “Improving young people’s education experience means accounting for the environment they encounter online as well as offline."
The poll's respondents were almost evenly divided into three camps when it came to who they felt bore responsibility for ending cyberbullying: 32% believed it is up to governments; 31 per cent put the onus on young people themselves; and 29% said internet companies should do it.
“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, a Moroccan pediatrician who serves as the U.N. secretary-general's special representative on violence against children. “We are in this together and we must share the responsibility in partnership.”
Online bullying does not seem to be the reserve of wealthier schools, UNICEF emphasized. Some 34% of young people who live among most of Africa and responded to the survey said they were victimized. About 39% said they knew of private online groups inside the school community in which students shared information for the purpose of bullying.
A poll of 170,000 young people
Last year, UNICEF brought together more than 100 young people from around the world to draft what they called the #ENDviolence Youth Manifesto.
It was presented to education ministers at a UNICEF-supported global summit in January. The manifesto calls on governments, teachers, parents and others to end violence against students and to ensure that schools are safe places for learning, including 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.”
U.N. human rights officials also have been urging U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 1990 U.N. treaty that sets standards for protecting children younger than 18 through quality education, health care and social services. The treaty also says children should have a voice in decisions about their lives.
As one of the most widely adopted human rights agreements, the treaty was created to prevent forced child labor, child marriage, denial of health care to disabled youth and other serious threats to the well-being of children globally. The United States signed it in 1995 but remains the only U.N. member nation that has not ratified it. Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked the treaty, asserting that it impinges on sovereignty.
More than 170,000 young people from the ages of 13 to 24 participated in the poll through a youth engagement tool called U-Report, a social messaging and data collection system developed by UNICEF.
Young people participated from Albania, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, France, Gambia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kosovo, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nigeria, Romania, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.