A new survey has laid bare the stark reality of bullying in NI school settings and communities.
The independent poll, commissioned by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum, revealed that 56 per cent of children surveyed here say they’ve been bullied a bit (33 per cent), or a lot (23 per cent), in the past six months.
Of those children, 47 per cent said bullying had happened in school, 43 per cent said it took place online, 44 per cent said it took place on the way to or from school while 47 per cent said their bullying experiences happened in their communities.
The survey questioned 1,093 children between the ages of 11 and 16 and highlights how prevalent bullying is, especially today in an environment that poses even bigger challenges for our young people.
Released during Anti-Bullying Week, which is coordinated by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) which is managed by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), and supported by Translink and Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI), the survey aims to support a needs-led approach to anti-bullying work in Northern Ireland.
The campaign, which is in its 15th year and runs from November 16-20, employs a new theme in 2020; ‘United Against Bullying’, which has been inspired by the cohesiveness of society during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Anti-Bullying Poll also revealed that the number of young people here with one good friend or more has dropped since the onset of the global pandemic.
Seventy-three per cent of children surveyed said they had more than one good friend before the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 but that figure has since dropped to 62 per cent as Covid-19 makes its grip on socialisation tighter.
With more children online during the pandemic, especially social media sites, 23 per cent said coronavirus has impacted bullying, with worries about higher rates of online bullying escalating.
One young person surveyed said: “I know we have to socially distance from each other during this pandemic, but some of my friends are going out of their way to avoid being anywhere near me. I find it really rude, and I’m actually quite upset.”
Another surveyed added: “Bullying has now taken a digital form. People who used to get bullied at school are now being bullied on social media sites.”
The NI Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) and its members are calling on the Minister for Education and other departments to work collectively to prioritise data-gathering and to work with NIABF to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on young people’s experiences of bullying and to make the necessary investments in implementing effective solutions.
Speaking about the survey, Deirdre McAliskey, Assistant Director at the National Children’s Bureau, hosts of the NIABF and organisers of Anti-Bullying Week, said: “Our survey ahead of Anti-Bullying Week gets straight to the heart of the issues facing our young children. We know that bullying still plays a role in our school environments, in our communities and elsewhere and it’s disheartening to learn that Covid-19 has made things worse for these children. No child should ever feel unsafe or worried and by sharing the findings of this survey we hope more people will take part in our campaign to protect and promote children’s rights and to drive down these harrowing figures.
“Our theme this year is United Against Bullying because now, more than ever, we have experienced the inspirational capacity that society has when it comes together to tackle a common challenge. By channelling our power for good, through shared efforts and collective responsibility, we can reduce bullying together. We want children and young people, to parents, carers, teachers and politicians to all play a role in uniting against bullying. This is everyone’s business, not just those directly affected.”