1 in 6 Teenagers reports Online Harassment, WHO

1 in 6 Teenagers reports Online Harassment, WHO


Nearly one in six adolescents have experienced cyberbullying, an international study has found.

In the second volume of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study, WHO/Europe Today. The latest data from 2018 to 2022 shows a concerning increase in cyberbullying. 

Let us consider two trends. Amongst boys bullying others, the trend has been rising from 11% to 14%. For girls bullying others, it has shown a rise of 7% to 9%. The reports of being cyberbullied have escalated from 12% to 15% for boys and from 13% to 16% for girls. 

Related: Cyberbullying and its Impact on the mental health of Youth

WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge shows his concerns and considers this to be a wakeup call. 

Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study is a cross-national research study conducted in collaboration with WHO/Europe. The international report by Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study draws on data from over 279 000 young people across 44 countries and regions. Its second volume provides important insights into bullying, cyberbullying and physical fighting.

The report gives us insight across Europe, Central Asia, and Canada. Regardless of geographical location, socioeconomic status, or demographic characteristics, adolescents are vulnerable to the perils of online harassment. From hurtful messages and malicious rumours to exclusionary tactics and impersonation, the tactics employed by cyberbullies are diverse and insidious, often inflicting profound harm on their targets.

With Covid-19 pandemic, social engagements switched to an online environment. Making online presence an extremely important aspect of existence. Children spend 6-7 hours everyday online. Therefore, even small changes in the rates of bullying and violence can have profound implications for the health and well-being of thousands. The pervasive nature of digital communication means that the harm inflicted by cyberbullies can follow individuals into their homes. This can disrupt their sense of safety and security in not just their virtual but real-world settings too.

“This is both a health and a human rights issue, and we must step up to protect our children from violence and harm, both offline and online,” comments Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.  There have been implementations with offline school anti-bullying laws enforced. Overall trends in school bullying have remained stable since 2018.

Increased digitization of youth has led to rates of cyberbullying escalate. Now, “Schools alone cannot tackle the issue and the government must ensure the Online Safety Act is implemented swiftly and properly enforced, while social media platforms must do much more to provide a safe online environment”, says Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser for school leaders’ union NAHT. The fight for a safer and more inclusive online world is a shared responsibility. 

Dr Joanna Inchley reports, “We need fast, comprehensive, and evidence-based interventions involving all levels of society, along with policies and programmes that cultivate empathy, respect, and resilience among adolescents. This is paramount.” 

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