Guwahati: 95% of youth reported corporal punishment leading to mental health issues, while one in three identified Facebook as the most common platform for being bullied, according to a survey conducted by UNICEF Assam.
Most National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers, who participated in a U-Report poll on cyberbullying and corporal punishment, expressed awareness on the issues, UNICEF Assam said in a statement.
The poll was taken by close to 9,500 volunteers from 24 universities and education institutions in Assam.
The U-Report poll was launched on July 18, 2022, by Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi and was developed to support the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights’ (ASCPCR) campaign called Suraksha, which aims to raise public awareness on the forms of violence against children and redressal mechanism, it said.
As part of the poll, 35 per cent shared experiencing corporal punishment at home, 25 per cent at school and 14 per cent at other spaces such as private tuition and on sports grounds. On the other hand, 26 per cent experienced it in all three settings.
The most common form of punishment was being hit or slapped on the hand, arm or leg (67 per cent), while 16 per cent followed with being shouted, screamed, or yelled at.
Close to 60 per cent of these young people said that it impacted their social relationships, for 24 per cent it led to stress, anxiety and fear, and 17 per cent reported physical injury.
Half of the young people reported being bullied online by an unknown person, 12 per cent were bullied by a classmate and 14 per cent by a friend.
36 per cent identified Facebook as the most common platform for being bullied, followed by Instagram at 25 per cent.
The most common form of bullying was the spreading of lies, embarrassing photos or videos on social media (35 per cent). Physical appearance was the most common reason for being bullied online.
“Given the Government of Assam’s impetus on creating a conducive environment for young people to grow and thrive, UNICEF Assam has been working with young people in Assam, especially those from the most vulnerable communities. Between 2020 and 2021, our focus was to understand how COVID-19 had impacted their lives,” said Dr. Madhulika Jonathan, Chief of UNICEF Assam.
In 2020-21, the Directorate of NSS for the Northeast Region and UNICEF Assam joined hands to work on the issue of child protection in all eight states as a mandated part of a national partnership between the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and UNICEF India.
Through a series of online workshops to understand the impact of COVID-19 on young people that were facilitated by civil society partner, We Are Young (WAY) Foundation, NSS volunteers pointed at corporal punishment and cyber bullying as two critical issues.
Currently, 19 per cent of Assam’s 3.1 crore population (Census 2011) is in the 15-24 years age group.
“The NSS cohort was an appropriate sample group to understand the issues of young people in the state,” said Deepak Kumar, Director for the Northeast Region of NSS.
Together with the volunteers, the Regional Directorate of NSS will be adopting a new calendar of activities incorporating child protection as a thematic area.
In addition, volunteers have taken Social Action Plans at the university/ college level in the form of campaigns, street theatre, and lecture series among others, to inform and influence their peers.
Incidentally, 68 per cent of the volunteers expressed awareness of redressal mechanisms, of which 57 per cent recognized Assam Police as the most popular support system available.
Of them, only 18 per cent were aware of 1098, 11 per cent about the cyber cell, and 1 per cent about the Special Juvenile Police Unit.
According to 19 per cent of the young people, the redressal mechanisms were not easy at the time of reporting an incident, and 24 per cent expressed a lack of acknowledgment and discussion around these issues in schools, colleges and at home, due to the fear of social stigma.
About 60 per cent opined a critical role for parents to work with education institutions to create a safe protective environment to end this form of violence.
94 per cent demanded mass awareness on the issues stemming from cyberbullying, especially among parents, community members and educational institutions.