Nearly 95% of Assam youth suffer from mental health issues due to cyberbullying, corporal punishment: UNICEF-NSS study

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An estimated 95% of youth in Assam have suffered cyberbullying and corporal punishment leading to mental health issues, a poll conducted by UNICEF and National Service Scheme (NSS) has revealed.

Currently, 19% of Assam’s 3.1 crore population (Census 2011) is in the age group of 15-24 years. “Close to 60% of the young people who were surveyed pointed out that it impacted their social relationships, for 24% it led to stress, anxiety and fear, and 17% reported physical injury,” the report said.

The U-Report poll, launched in July this year, was developed to support the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights’ (ASCPCR) campaign called Suraksha, aiming to raise public awareness on the forms of violence against children and redressal mechanisms.

U-Report is a social platform created by UNICEF, available via SMS, Facebook and Twitter, where young people express their opinion .

Dr. Mythili Hazarika, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, Gauhati Medical College Hospital, said cyberbullying has become common in recent years as the presence of young people in the digital space has increased considerably, even leading to death by suicide in some cases.

“Social alienation, a feeling of powerlessness, anxiety, depression and loneliness are common manifestations. The victim often believes that it is his/her fault leading to psychological issues. It is important that the victim must report the matter to his/her immediate family and take legal redressal”, Hazarika told PTI.

Social activist and counsellor Archana Borthakur told PTI that trolling in cyberspace as well as corporal punishment can have a permanent effect on the mental health of young people and they must immediately go to the police, counsellors and also seek legal help.

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As many as 9,500 NSS volunteers from 24 universities and educational institutions of the State participated in the poll on cyberbullying and corporal punishment and its results were released on Sunday.

Half of the young people reported being bullied online by an unknown person, 12% were bullied by a classmate and 14% by a friend.

Facebook was identified by 36% of the young people as the most common social platform for being bullied, followed by Instagram at 25%.

Spreading lies, embarrassing photos or videos on social media (35%) were the most frequent forms of bullying with physical appearance as the most common reason for being bullied online.

According to the poll, 35% of young people experienced corporal punishment at home, 25% at school, 14% at other spaces such as private tuitions and on sports grounds. Twenty-six per cent experienced it in all the three settings.

The most common form of punishment was being hit or slapped on the hand, arm or leg (67%) followed by yelling or verbal abuse (16%).

Awareness about redressal mechanisms were known to 68% of the volunteers, of which 57% recognised Assam Police as the most popular available support system.

“Given Assam government’s impetus on creating a conducive environment for youth to grow and thrive, UNICEF Assam has been working with them, especially those from the most vulnerable communities,” UNICEF Assam chief Madhulika Jonathan said.

In 2020-21, the NSS Directorate for the northeast region and UNICEF Assam joined hands to work on the issue of child protection in all eight states as a mandate of a national partnership between the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and UNICEF India.

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