The Buddy Network has emerged as a trigger for positive change, sparking conversations and initiatives to address bullying in schools and public places in the MENA region. This is according to the findings of a Cartoon Network study in partnership with YouGov, which studied the impact of bullying on children aged 6 – 12 years, as a part of its wider commitment to addressing the issue through its annual Buddy Network campaign. The findings were released at a press briefing held in Dubai launching the new Buddy Network campaign in collaboration with UNICEF.
The study was launched to mark Anti-Bullying Week, now underway (Nov 14-18), and revealed that although more than half of parents in the UAE, KSA, and Egypt observed an increase in cyberbullying, there was an overall decrease in the incidence of bullying compared to the previous year. Physical appearance, social skills, and nationality were the top reasons for being bullied in the UAE, Egypt, and KSA. Verbal, psychological, and physical bullying in schools and outdoor spaces was also common.
Parents felt that a lack of parental discipline, jealousy, excessive online time/unsupervised use? and mimicking violence on television and video games, were the main reasons for bullying. A majority felt technology had a negative impact on bullying. Encouragingly, nearly 3 out of 4 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 KSA parents were observed to be a little lower at 63%. Over half of parents in KSA (54%) and half in the UAE (50%) felt that Cartoon Network’s Buddy Network Campaign had a positive effect on addressing issues related to bullying.
Children across the region are bullied at school more than anywhere else, leading to a loss of confidence, depression, anxiety, excessive aggression, and self-harm. The survey also noted that the hesitation to report bullying was mainly because of shame or fear of retaliation. Half of UAE parents observed that bullied children failed to report their struggles because they felt no one would be able to help them.
Helping children tackle the situation on their own and filing a complaint with school authorities were the most preferred actions for parents if their child was bullied. Reaching out to the bully’s parents directly was another approach UAE respondents preferred, while KSA parents stated they would report the bully’s profile on the online platform where the bullying occurred.
Mohamed Sheiha, Head of Marketing, Digital & Communications at Warner Bros. Discovery said, “Cartoon Network is committed to ending bullying by offering support to children and increasing awareness about this seemingly everyday occurrence that can have a long-lasting impact. 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.”
Working closely with UNICEF and drawing on the global organisation’s expertise, Cartoon Network Middle East has launched its third CN Buddy Network campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the long-term effects of bullying on kids. 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 well-being. We are happy to collaborate with Cartoon Network Middle East on the CN Buddy Network campaign – a key initiative to protect children from bullying in the region.”
As part of the initiative, Cartoon Network launched a series of digital awareness content that shed light on the effects of bullying and the importance of standing up to it. To date, the Buddy Network campaign has hosted workshops for more than 12,500 students in the UAE and KSA.