Grameenphone and Telenor Group, in association with Plan International, ran a survey in August and September 2021 among youth with COVID-19 as the backdrop on how internet use and online bullying trends have changed across four countries, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand.
Of the 3,930 respondents in the regional survey, 16% respondents were youths from Bangladesh. The survey revealed that 85% of these youth in Bangladesh said that online bullying is a severe problem. With the ongoing digitalization in Bangladesh, this is a concern that requires greater attention and awareness. 29% of Bangladesh youths said they were bullied before the pandemic, while 18% said they experienced more online bullying since the onset of COVID-19.
In Bangladesh, 8% of youths have experienced online bullying at least once a week or more since the pandemic. The three most common platforms where youths experienced online bullying were social media, messaging apps, and online gaming and video game streaming platforms.
To stop the bullying online, respondents in the four countries said that they took several measures to safeguard themselves, which included 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.
Yasir Azman, CEO of Grameenphone, reiterated Grameenphone’s focus to address the issues outlined by the Telenor survey. “We’ve been working hard to drive awareness and keep our future generations safe online in collaboration with Telenor and partners such as UNICEF to address these risks. There is no denying our future generation needs digital skills and are active users of the internet. We, therefore, need to intensify cooperation and commitment with various stakeholders to keep them safe. The survey results set a call to action to focus on this issue collectively. It is great to see the Bangladesh Government taking a bold step to include this very relevant subject in the National Curriculum with a mission to amplify awareness.” he said.
“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. Awareness, training on online bullying, and digital building resilience are crucial to 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. “While companies such as Telenor already play an active role in Online Safety initiatives, results can be amplified even more with collaborative participation, in partnerships with governments, civil society, and academia.”
The survey also asked youths what they wanted as further guidance and training to protect themselves online. Across the four countries, the results show that they are keen to learn more about dealing with online bullying on social media apps (56%), protecting their privacy online (46%) and improving their mental health and wellbeing (43%). Additionally, the respondents were interested in protecting themselves from online bullies on messaging apps (40%) and dealing with online bullying during gaming and streaming video games (37%).
The survey also revealed that 86% of youths surveyed in Bangladesh spent more time on the internet since COVID-19 began. In addition, 35% of youth in Bangladesh said they used the internet all the time, 15% used it mainly in the evenings, and only 2% limited their use to only during school hours.
Safeguarding online activities for the young users of the internet has been one of Grameenphone’s long-standing objectives. We have been working very closely with our partners and the community since 2016 to keep children and youth safer online. Grameenphone’s public awareness drives like “Internet er Duniya’e Jante Hobe, Kothay Apnar Thamte Hobe”, “Be Smart Use Heart” and “Thik Line’e Online’e”, in addition to online training curriculum “Digiworld”, and in-school outreach with organizations like BRAC and UNICEF are efforts to build a digitally resilient and future-ready generation in Bangladesh ultimately.