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Mike Fairburn, General Manager, Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, (left) and Darine El-Khatib, Senior Director Creative Strategy and Brand Development at Turner MENA and Turkey, at the Cartoon Network Buddy Network anti-bullying initiative press conference on 22nd October 2019. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News Image Credit:

Dubai: At least 85 per cent of UAE schoolchildren have been bullied, mostly online, a new survey suggested on Tuesday in Dubai.

The ‘Cartoon Network MENA Survey 2019’ also showed that only half of UAE parents are aware that their child has been bullied previously.

Cartoon Network Middle East conducted the survey through ‘Opinion Matters’ among 700 UAE-based parents of children aged six to 12 years, to study the impact of bullying for a duration of one month in 2019. The survey targeted all seven emirates.

Be a Buddy, Not a Bully’

The survey’s key findings were revealed on Tuesday in Dubai during the launch of Cartoon Network Middle East’s UAE-wide anti-bullying campaign ‘CN Buddy Network’, encouraging children aged five to 12 years to ‘Be a Buddy, Not a Bully.’

Surprising results

It yielded some surprising results, such as bullying is least likely to happen inside school – most bullying is psychological and happens online – and girls are just as likely as boys to be bullies or victims.

Psychological bullying is most common (15 per cent), followed by verbal bullying and physical bullying (both 13 per cent).

Despite the high reported rate of bullying in the UAE, the survey figures are similar to average worldwide trends, UAE-based child psychologist Dr Haneen Jarrar, who is participating in the campaign, said at Tuesday’s event.

School workshops

The ‘CN Buddy Network’ campaign is running tailored school workshops by specialised child psychologists that aim to create a positive school culture and help prevent bullying among students. The workshops will continue until December and will target over 1,000 students in at least 50 schools.

Red flags

Dr Jarrar said the workshops will try to help bullies too, who often come from a troubled background, are sometimes victims of bullying themselves; or suffer low self-esteem.

“I always say kids ask for love in the most unloving ways; it’s always the case. So when a child is aggressive or a bully, this is actually a red flag that there is something going on,” she added.

Referring cases

Dr Jarrar said she hopes, through the campaign, school counsellors will start working together with psychologists to identify these red flags, possibly referring cases to specialists. The first referral would be free of charge, and take place at school.

“From there, if we know that the child needs psycho-educational assessment, or intervention, speech and language therapy, etc, then we will see how that goes forward.”

She added that many insurance companies now provide cover for such cases, thanks to efforts by UAE health and education authorities.

Sounding alarm

Dr Jarrar said bullied children can, and have, committed suicide. According to her, it was reported that around six months ago a girl in Abu Dhabi took her own life after being bullied.

“The [bullying] statistics are very high… It’s an issue we need to solve. Thankfully, there are organisations who are willing to help,” Dr Jarrar said.

Anti-bullying kits

Also, anti-bullying school kits will be distributed to students, including various games and tools to engage them in anti-bullying activities during the workshops. A Buddy Network website - https://beabuddy.cartoonnetworkmena.com/ - has also been developed, which includes information and advice for parents and children to counter bullying.

Theme song

As part of the campaign, Cartoon Network is also partnering with Sony Music Entertainment Middle East to create an anti-bullying song performed by YouTube star singers; the sisters Rawan and Rayan. The Arabic pop song speaks to children with positive messages around inclusion, and will be aired on TV and available worldwide across all music services.

Darine Al Khatib, Senior Director Creative Strategy and Brand Development at Turner MENA and Turkey, said: “Bullying has become a widespread global concern, with more and more children becoming vulnerable to this behaviour in different ways. As 2019 is the ‘Year of Tolerance’ in the UAE, we have decided to launch the Buddy Network campaign for the very first time in the Middle East, starting with the UAE. We hope that this campaign will raise awareness around this sensitive topic through promoting friendship and kindness, and educate children and parents about the effects of bullying.”

She described the 85 per cent figure from the survey as “shocking”.

Mike Fairburn, General Manager, Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, said: “Music is a universal language, it connects people and builds lasting memories. Cartoon Network shares this vision and we are delighted to be working together with them on this campaign to drive positive change in the UAE.”

‘CN Buddy Network’ campaign is part of Cartoon Network’s global Buddy Network – a peer to peer anti-bullying initiative that started in the UK and other parts of Europe. It uses TV content, events and digital and social outreach to spread the message about protecting kids from bullying.

Bullying in UAE

85 per cent of parents are aware their child is or has been previously bullied

Most bullying (42 per cent) happens online, followed by outside school (40 per cent) and the least in school (39 per cent).

Common forms

Psychological bullying is most common (15 per cent), followed by verbal bullying and physical bullying (both 13 per cent).

Underlying reasons

Peer pressure is the leading reason (22 to 23 per cent) for bullying, with one in five boys targeted because of their weight and an equal proportion of girls victimised because of an unstable home.

A further 17 to 19 per cent of children are singled out because of their nationality.

On a positive note, almost two-thirds of parents (65 per cent) are confident their children’s school is doing everything it can to prevent bullying.

Source: ‘Cartoon Network MENA Survey 2019’

Consequences on the bullied

Lower grades

Absence from school

Becoming moody

Can’t sleep

No appetite

Consequences on the bully

Shaky family relationship

Low self-esteem

Feeling lonely

Misbehaviour in adulthood

Source: CN Buddy Network