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What can be done about bullying?

The disturbing news footage that emerged yesterday surrounding the Syrian child in Huddersfield being bullied in the school playground highlights once again the need to address all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.

A growing concern about cyberbullying led The Duke of Cambridge to set up the Cyberbullying Taskforce in 2016, an initiative that included leading tech companies and experts in the field of children, the internet and mental health. The Taskforce has since launched several programmes to tackle bullying, including the Code of Conduct ‘Stop Seek Support’. Summarising the Taskforce’s achievements earlier this month (during Anti-Bullying Week), the Duke believes that more can be done, “Social media companies have done more to connect the world than has ever been achieved in human history. Surely you can connect with each other about smart ways to deal with the unintended consequences of these connections?”. The Taskforce has worked with the BBC to develop a new internet safety app called ‘Own It’ which will be launched next year.

Family Kids & Youth’s qualitative and quantitative research on behalf of The Cyberbullying Taskforce found that young people are reluctant to admit to bullying and that there is a fine line between ‘banter’ and  ‘bullying’. The research found:

  • It is clear that the personal nature of cyberbullying is particularly hurtful.
  • It is especially bad if the perpetrator is not known to the victim.
  • Many young people believe that there is a general reluctance to admit incidents of cyberbullying to their family or teachers – for fear of escalation.
  • Embarrassment about the nature of the bullying (e.g. sexting, inappropriate pictures, language used etc.) compound the problem, and add to the sense that they are somehow to blame.
  • Young people find it difficult to define bullying – phrases or words such as ‘picked on’ or ‘banter’ are frequently used in place of ‘bullying’.
  • Often what might be described as cyberbullying therefore is not called that by young people.
  • There is a strong feeling that young people bully online because they think they can ‘get away with it’.
  • There is consensus however that the issue is out of control and needs tackling, although young people recognise it is a difficult issue to tackle.
  • There is particular concern about the current issue of ‘Bait-Out’ accounts – i.e. local gossip which is anonymous and can frequently become personally abusive to named individuals but viewed by many. All young people in our workshops appeared to follow them but were often shocked by their abusive nature. Teachers know of them but feel helpless to prevent their use.

Family Kids & Youth’s current research is focusing on Children’s Mental Health and the Internet; we are finding that many of the issues identified above are still a concern for young people. Our findings from this research will be published in January 2019.

Schools will be asked to track pupils’ happiness

UK schools are being asked to monitor children’s happiness and mental health as part of lessons in relationships, sex and health education. The information will be used to create a ‘happiness index’ which will track young people’s well-being. An annual ‘State of the Nation’ report will be published highlighting mental health trends among the UK’s youth. This will be the first time that mental health will be given the same level of focus as physical health and academic attainment. These plans are part of the government’s wider mental health strategy which also intends to send thousands of therapists into classrooms across the country. The strategy hopes to tackle growing concerns around reports of increased levels of anxiety among young people. The UK’s first minister for suicide prevention was also appointed earlier this month.

Ofsted reports to become more accessible for parents

The head of strategic development for Ofsted, Amy Finch, has announced that Ofsted’s new framework will make their reports more accessible for parents. From September 2019, Ofsted’s revised framework will aim to improve parental communication by using clearer language and removing any technical jargon in reports. According to Amy Finch, parents have also requested that reports should include the “experience of going to school, and how the school that they send their child to is different from others”. This shift acknowledges and promotes parents as important stakeholders in education. The director of campaign group Parents and Teachers for Excellence, Mark Lehain, said this would be welcomed if Ofsted “can find a consistent way to share useful insights on schools, that doesn’t place a burden on staff during inspection.”

Young people at risk of online fraud due to “sharenting”

Barclays Bank has forecast that “sharenting” will account for two-thirds of identity fraud among young people by the end of the decade, costing £667m per year. According to the bank’s security specialists, identity fraud has “never been easier” as a result of social media and parents sharing too much information about their children online. Parents often reveal names, ages, date of birth, home addresses, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, schools, the name of pets, sports teams supported and photographs online, all of which can compromise young people’s financial security. Barclays warns that details shared by parents will still be available and could be used for fraudulent loans, credit card transactions or online shopping scams when young people become adults.

Young people have never been unhappier

Young people’s happiness across every single area of their lives has never been lower, research by the Prince’s Trust has found. The national survey shows young people’s wellbeing has fallen over the last 12 months and is at its lowest level since the study was first commissioned in 2009. The survey was conducted with over 2,000 respondents aged 16 to 25 and revealed that three out of five young people regularly feel stressed amid concerns over jobs and money, while one in four felt “hopeless”, and half had experienced a mental health problem.

Chief Executive of the Prince’s Trust, Nick Stace, says the results show that the government and employers need to invest more in developing young people’s skills and promoting positive mental wellbeing. He said: “It should ring alarm bells for us all that young people are feeling more despondent about their emotional health than ever before.” Read more here.

Questions over whether technology is preventing young children’s ability to hold pens

Paediatric therapists fear that children are increasingly finding it difficult to hold pens and pencils because of an overuse of technology. FK&Y’s Dr Barbie Clarke, interviewed for the article which appeared in the Guardian, has pointed out that there currently appears to be a lack of evidence to confirm this however, and more research is needed to determine the impact of technology on a young child’s ability to write. “We go into many schools and have never gone into one, even those which have embraced teaching through technology, where pen and paper is not also being used alongside the tablets and iPads.”

The paediatric therapists interviewed for the article believe that using touch screen phones and tablets is preventing young children’s finger muscles from developing, not giving them the opportunity to develop dexterity and strength in their hands. Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust said: “Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not being able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental movement skills”. Read more here.

UNESCO’s international education report challenges accountability of education services

The annual education monitoring report from the United Nation’s education agency, UNESCO, has revealed that 264 million young people do not have access to primary or secondary school. The report suggests that this figure could in fact be even higher, estimating an undercount of 250 million in household surveys across developing countries and the likelihood of another 100 million outside the reach of official statistics, including those living as illegal immigrants in wealthier countries. This year’s report focuses on accountability but also highlights that holding governments accountable for failing to deliver education services depends on accurate knowledge of the number needing support. As a result, international goals to cut illiteracy and increase access to schools do not recognise the full scale of the problem, leaving no one held accountable for protecting the rights of the “invisible” millions. Education has also received a declining share of aid budgets for six successive years, with former education ministers calling for a greater commitment to aid for education. Read more here.

Children believe gender stereotypes by age ten

The subject of gender stereotypes is being much debated. A new six-year study has found that children are convinced by gender stereotypes by the age of ten. Examples include such beliefs as boys should be brave and adventurous, and girls should be beautiful and protected. The global study gathered data on 10- to 14-year-olds in 15 different countries of varying degrees of wealth and development from across the world, interviewing 450 adolescents and their parents. Researchers reported that a ‘uniformity of attitudes about what it takes to be a boy or a girl’ was prevalent among all societies, from the most conservative to the most liberal, with children internalising gender myths and expectations from a very early age.

Such “gender straitjackets” are believed to have negative consequences for children, since they create certain expectations and impact their ability to make their own choices or take risks. The research suggests that programmes which target pre-teens would help to readdress gender roles, and help to question why males and females should look and behave in a certain way. Read more here.

UNICEF calls for governments to prioritise early childhood development

A child’s early experience has a profound influence on their future development. UNICEF has published a report entitled ‘Early Moments Matter for Every Child’, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of children’s first 1,000 days of life for brain development. Its findings suggest that amongst 85 million children under five, the 32 countries taking part in the study do not offer what it calls the three ‘critical policies’ to support children’s early brain development. These critical policies include two years of free pre-primary education, paid breastfeeding breaks for new mothers in the first six months of a child’s life and adequate paid parental leave. According to UNICEF, governments worldwide spend an average of less than 2% of their education budgets on early childhood programmes, despite the fact that investment in this age group would yield significant economic gains in the future. Just 15 countries worldwide were found to guarantee all 3 policies, including Cuba, France, Portugal, Russia and Sweden Read more here.

The power of print – magazines boost children’s brands and increase a sense of belonging among fans

It seem that the kids’ magazine market is in a healthy position, with the latest children’s brands frequently being realised in print. Examples include Minecraft, Play-Doh, Frozen (Egmont) and Peppa Pig (Redan), all of which provide themed content, puzzles, colouring and cover gifts. Publishing houses such as Immediate Media and Redan Publishing are continuing to enjoy resilient sales, despite the growth of online media. Year on year growth has been recorded for titles including Girl Talk, Girl Talk Art and LEGO Nexo Knights (Immediate Media). The first and second ranking magazines in the pre-school ABC chart are Peppa Pig Bag-O-Fun and Fun To Learn Peppa Pig (Redan Publishing) which have sold over 77 and 64 thousand copies respectively per issue. Andrea Marsden, deputy MD at DJ Murphy (Publishers) commented “the power of print is undeniable. When a brand is ‘hot’, then the fans want to interact with everything to do with that brand.” She also suggests that magazines enhance children’s feeling of belonging to a club and that cover-mounted gifts are a key part of the offering, as seen with DJ Murphy’s magazine launch inspired by the collectable brand Shopkins. Read more here.

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