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Children in MENA face bullying more than anywhere in the world, study finds

November 17, 2022 at 2:54 pm

School children are seen on the first day of integration education program for kindergarten and first grade students in Konya, Turkiye on September 05, 2022. [Serhat Çetinkaya – Anadolu Agency]

Children in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region experience bullying more than other parts of the world, according to a study carried out by Cartoon Network in partnership with YouGov as part of the network’s annual Buddy Network campaign.

More than half of parents polled in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and Egypt said their child experienced bullying, the majority of which occurred at school.

The study was launched to mark Anti-Bullying Week (14-18 November) and involved more than 3,000 parents of children aged between six and 12.

Nearly three out of four parents in the UAE felt confident that their child’s school was doing everything it could to address and prevent bullying, although confidence levels amongst Saudi parents was found to be a little lower at 63 per cent.

Over half of parents in the kingdom (54 per cent) and half in the UAE (50 per cent) felt that Cartoon Network’s Buddy Network Campaign had a positive effect on addressing issues related to bullying.

Mohamed Sheiha, head of marketing, digital & communications at Warner Bros. Discovery said: “Cartoon Network is committed to end bullying by offering support to children and increasing awareness about this seemingly everyday occurrence that can have long-lasting impact.”

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“Our collaboration with UNICEF MENA on educational and awareness content ensures that we can have the greatest positive impact. The Buddy Network campaign highlights the struggles faced by countless young children in schools across the region. Our survey with YouGov aims to provide schools and parents with the right insights to tackle bullying,” he added.

Among the most common reasons for bullying were children’s weight or body size, lack of social skills, nationality and not having the latest gadgets. Verbal bullying was observed to be the most common in the UAE, followed by psychological and cyber bullying.

“In the past year, parents across all markets seem to have observed an increase in cyberbullying among children — highest in Turkey and [Saudi Arabia] at 68 per cent and 67 per cent, respectively. While in UAE also it is high at 62 per cent, and 58 per cent in Egypt,” the report’s authors said.

“According to parents across markets, ‘loss of confidence’ is observed to be one of the top most long-term impacts of bullying, followed by ‘leads to anxiety/depression and ‘self-harm’. In Turkey, parents also feel that it leads to ‘excessive aggression’.”

Salim Oweis, acting regional chief of advocacy and communication at UNICEF Middle East and North Africa, said: “Every child deserves a happy, safe and fulfilling childhood, which is hindered when they are bullied. The harmful and long-lasting consequences of bullying on children are well documented, affecting their emotional and mental wellbeing.”

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