Fewer youngsters being bullied, as Anti-Bullying Week kicks off


A research project has shown that bullying and harassment among children and teenagers has declined, with credit given to campaigns like Anti-Bullying Week

Move tegen pesten

Fewer teenagers and prepubescents are being bullied in Flanders, according to research conducted by Ghent University together with the region’s Health and Care Agency. The study was released to coincide with the Week Against Bullying, which launches today.

The research was carried out among 11,000 youth between the ages of 11 and 18 in 2018. They were questioned as to whether they were bullied over the last few months, by whom, where and how – in person or online.

In 2014, the last year such research was carried out, 19% of youngsters in the age group said they had been bullied in one way or another. In 2018, that number had fallen to 16%.

The youngsters were also asked if they themselves could be accused of bullying. Some 18% admitted that they could have been in 2014. This time around, that figure was much lower, at 11%.

We need a knowledge centre that converts scientific insights into real-life tools for policymakers and social workers

- Gie Deboutte

“This proves that the many campaigns – like Move tegen Pesten – are doing their job,” said Gie Deboutte, chair of Kies Kleur tegen Pesten, an anti-bullying umbrella organisation. “The figures are falling, both in youngsters who say they are occasionally bullied to those who deal with it on a regular basis.”

Move tegen Pesten is a song with dance moves that is re-invented every couple of years by children’s television network Ketnet.

Bullying on social media was studied for the first time in 2018, with about 8% of all youngsters saying they had been victimised by unwanted aggression and language or embarrassing photos. It is worse for girls than for boys, and especially girls aged 13 to 14. A full 12% say they have been bullied or harassed online.

“What is striking about cyber-bullying is the harsh languages being used,” said Deboutte. “The attitude is that it’s normal to harass someone online; it’s as if these youngsters are already completely cynical.”

Today is the kick-off of Week Against Bullying in Flanders, an annual initiative launched 15 years ago by Kies Kleur, in partnership with Ketnet. The week sees celebrities and thousands of members of the public in Flanders – especially children – marking the backs of their hands with four dots. The design is known as an “anti-bullying virus” that can be passed on to others.

Each dot represents a promise: I will never bully another person; I will talk about any sadness or fear I have about being bullied; I will never shut anyone out of a group, everyone deserves to be included; and I will always try to defend someone who is being bullied.

On Friday, Ketnet will air the Anti-Bullying Festival from 18.30.

Deboutte would like to see two measures taken in Flanders against bullying. “We need to fund initiatives by schools and youth groups and reward these groups for their efforts,” she said. “We also need a knowledge centre that converts scientific insights into real-life tools for policymakers and social workers. That is a huge gap in this effort in Flanders.”

Photos: (top) Nora Gharib (left) and Sarah Mouhamou are the faces of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week. Both faced bullying and racism growing up in Flanders ©courtesy Week tegen Pesten; (above) Girls aged 13-14 face the most bullying online ©Getty Images