Nearly seven in 10 youngsters victims of bullying or aggression


For the Week Against Bullying, the government of Flanders has announced a new co-operation among helplines that work with young people faced with physical and psychological violence

More than half are cyber-bullied

A study carried out for the government of Flanders has shown that nearly seven in 10 children and teenagers in the region report being the victim of bullying or physical aggression at some point in the last year. The results have been released in conjunction with Flanders’ Week Against Bullying.

The study was carried out by the UCLL University College among more than 1,700 youth. Researchers questioned young people about verbal and physical aggression, including online, at school, at home and in other social groups or in public.

“Nearly seven in 10 minors reported that they were humiliated or discriminated against at school at least once in the last 12 months,” said Anne Groenen of the Leuven Institute of Criminology, who co-ordinated the research project. “And half of them reported bullying and aggression against them in their own families. We see that there is a real need for more attention to be paid to bullying and cyber-bullying.”

The research team concluded that there need to be a more co-ordinated approach among the organisations working on issues related to youth bullying and violence. They also recommend that the government ministries for public health, education, youth and sport establish a more integrated approach to tackling the problem.

‘Always someone to contact’

In response to the report, the government has put the domestic violence and abuse help line 1712 in charge of working towards a more co-operative structure. This means co-ordinating efforts together with similar initiatives that work specifically with youth such as helplines, which deals specifically with abuse, the more general Awel and Wat wat, which publishes questions and experiences about sex, drugs, suicide and other issues.

The priority, according to a statement from the cabinet of public health minister Jo Vandeurzen, is to be certain that both young people and their families know where to turn if help is needed. The helpline 1712 launched an awareness campaign today featuring familiar faces from the children’s network Ketnet. Last year, 62% of the more than 5,000 calls and chats handled by 1712 workers had to do with child abuse.

“Help line 1712 is a crucial link in the integrated approach that the government of Flanders is rolling out to address violence against children,” Vandeurzen (CD&V) told Het Nieuwsblad. “The co-operation among 1712 and initiatives such as, Wat wat and Awel should make clear that there is always someone to contact if you are a victim of violence.”

Half of youth reported bullying and aggression against them in their own families

- Researcher Anne Groenen

Cyber-bullying, meanwhile, has become a common form of humiliation and verbal aggression among young people. The UCLL study shows that 54% of minors between the ages of 10 and 18 have been confronted with cyber-bullying in the last six months.

This is most often being called names, but the spreading of rumours and lies are also high on the list. About one in 10 youth were threatened with physical violence. More girls report being victims of cyberbullying than boys, with 59% of all girls having experienced such online treatment at least once.

The UCLL research team has produced a Cyber-bullying Roadmap that describes the dynamics of cyber-bullying and has suggestions for how to respond. The Cyber-bullying Roadmap is being made available to teachers.