Children call for change, as poll reveals they avoid school, social media and social life to escape bullying

  • Anti-Bullying Week celebrated in over three quarters of schools in England from 11 to 15 November
  • 24% of children surveyed said they are bullied once a week or more
  • 11% said they have missed school because of bullying
  • Anti-Bullying Alliance, with support from O2, publish ‘Change Starts With Us’* report outlining young people’s recommendations for change
  • Regional breakdown of poll results available on request

Children have set out their recommendations for change from tech companies, government, media, parents and schools, as a poll suggests that many of them miss school and avoid spending time with friends to escape bullying.

The survey of over 1,000 11 to 16-year-olds, published by the Anti-Bullying Alliance ahead of Anti-Bullying Week, shows the scale of bullying that children are experiencing on a day-to-day basis, with nearly a quarter (24%) saying they have been bullied once a week or more during the last six months. Nearly one child in every classroom (3%) said they are bullied every day.

One in ten children (11%) said they have missed school due to bullying. Even greater numbers have changed their route to school (14%) and nearly one in five (19%) have steered clear of spending time with friends to avoid being bullied. A similar amount (19%) have avoided social media and online gaming because of bullying, underlining how being bullied as a child can have serious repercussions, often lasting well into adulthood.

While many of the children who had been bullied said it happened in school (83%), other flashpoints included their journey to and from school (26%) and time spent online (30%).

Anti-Bullying Week, supported by O2, is urging everyone to remember that ‘Change Starts with Us’ underlining how everyday acts like listening to young people, having a conversation, thinking about the impact of our words or stopping before hitting ‘like’ on a hurtful social media post, can all help to reduce bullying.

Children highlighted where they thought change should start, with over three quarters (76%) of those polled saying that social media and gaming platforms should do more to change the way they address bullying, and nearly half (48%) saying their schools should do more. More than four in ten (44%) of children said that the media and influencers had the power to reduce bullying. 

Three quarters (73%) of children said that adults needed to step up to help tackle the problem, and a quarter (25%) said grown-ups were not good role models for online and face-to-face behaviour. Some children reported having seen grown-ups bullying each other either in the community (10%) or online (9%). Nearly a quarter of children (23%) said their parents had not spoken to them about bullying.

Working with young people, the Anti-Bullying Alliance and O2 have published a report setting out young people’s recommendations about what we can all do to address bullying:

  • Schools and education settings must record how much bullying is taking place and understand the ‘hotspots’ where bullying is more likely to happen, such as the journey to and from school.
  • Social media and online gaming companies should set children’s default privacy settings to the highest level.
  • Media and influencers should use their power responsibly and portray real life rather than an ideal.
  • Parents and carers should attempt to understand the technology that children use, and take time to listen to children.
  • Government and parliamentarians should act as role models in how they treat each other, and fund more training for schools.
  • Children and young people should think about the impact of their words and actions.

Martha Evans, Director of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, part of the National Children’s Bureau, said:

“If one in ten children have reported missing school because of bullying, we clearly have a problem. To turn this around, it’s important to bear in mind that everyone has a part to play in reducing and stemming the impact of bullying.”

Ann Pickering, Chief HR Officer and Chief of Staff, Chair of Responsible Business Taskforce, O2, said:

“We’re very proud to be working with the Anti-Bullying Alliance, and to be adding our voice to the call to stamp out bullying once and for all. The report shows that bullying isn’t an isolated problem. It exists in many forms – in schools, in the community and online – and as a responsible business, we know we need to play our part in tackling it.

Anti-Bullying Week is expected to be celebrated in over three quarters of schools across England between 11 to 15 November.

Forming part of Anti-Bullying Week, CBeebies star Andy Day, along with his band Andy and the Odd Socks, are urging people to support Odd Socks Day on 12th November. Every year, Andy and the Odd Socks record a song and make a video inspired by the theme of Anti-Bullying Week. This year the song is called ‘Change’ – an infectious, toe-tapping tune that brings the message to life for children. Andy is encouraging children and adults to wear odd socks to school during the campaign to show their support and raise money for a good cause.

Andy Day said:

This is our third year working with the Anti-Bullying Alliance and each year we are seeing an increase in support for such an important issue. Encouraging acceptance of individuality at an early age can help prevent bullying later in life and raising awareness on this is crucial.

“Highlighting the important issue of bullying in a fun way, Odd Socks Day aims to not only encourage children to be themselves, accepting one another, but also aims to celebrate what makes us all unique.

“This is why we’re calling for all schools to don a pair of odd socks and get involved. We’d love your support!”

About the Anti-Bullying Alliance
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) is a unique coalition of organisations and individuals, who work together to reduce bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn. ABA is part of the National Children’s Bureau.

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