More than two-thirds of 3,930 youths surveyed from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand agreed that online bullying is a serious problem for young people today.

Of the 1,350 youth surveyed in Pakistan, 42% said they were bullied before the pandemic began and in terms of intensity, over 40% said they experienced more online bullying since the onset of COVID-19.

The survey, conducted in August 2021 by Telenor Group, in partnership with Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aaghi (ITA) in Pakistan, found that 19% of youth in the country experienced online bullying at least once a week or more.

Respondents selected social media, messaging apps, online gaming, and video game streaming as the top three platforms where they experienced online bullying.

74% say that bullying online is a serious problem for them today.

The survey also revealed that youths who were bullied online used a range of tactics to stop the bullying. These spanned from ignoring the bully which resulted in the person stopping, changing security settings online so the person could not contact them, and speaking to a parent or guardian about the problem.

Refreshers on staying safe online needed

“Young minds across the world are growing up online, exposed to the internet’s world of limitless opportunities. But with these opportunities, come some risks that need to be identified and spoken about to raise awareness,” said Kamal Ahmed, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Telenor Pakistan.

“The results of this survey highlight the growing need for refreshers on cyberbullying and online safety along with support and understanding from teachers, parents, and guardians. While we aim to bridge the digital gap, online safety of the Pakistani youth is very close to us at Telenor Pakistan and we are actively educating children through Safe Internet Program to safely steer through the digital world,” he further added.

Given the importance of this topic for youth, and the heightened intensity of online bullying since the pandemic, youth were eager for more training and guidance on how to deal with online bullying on social media apps (51%), how to protect their privacy online (41%), and how to improve their mental health and wellbeing (37%).

Additionally, the respondents were interested in protecting themselves from online bullies on messaging apps (35%) and dealing with online bullying during gaming and streaming video games (38%).

“With the marked increase in time spent on the internet by youth during the pandemic, there is a clear need to better equip youth with ways and methods to protect themselves online.”

“It is crucial that awareness, training on online bullying, and building digital resilience be a multi-stakeholder exercise. This should not be left just to educational institutions but should also involve parents and caregivers,” said Manisha Dogra, VP, Sustainability for Telenor in Asia.

Increased internet time

Overall, 58% of youth surveyed in Pakistan used much more or more time on the internet since COVID-19 began. 17% said they use the internet all the time – from waking up till bedtime – while 38% used it mostly in the evenings, and only 4% limited their use to only during school hours.