A UAE anti-bullying initiative aims to help boost awareness of the issue among children and teachers across the country.
Organisers said the campaign would run tailored workshops staffed by child psychologists to educate age groups most at risk.
Launched by the Cartoon Network Middle East, officials said they hoped to promote an atmosphere of “friendship and kindness” among children.
The project will focus on five to 12 years olds, with sessions held for more than 1,000 pupils around the Emirates during November.
Carolyn Yaffe, a cognitive behaviour therapist at Camali Clinic in Dubai, welcomed the move.
“Pupils should be taught about what bullying is as part of the curriculum. They need to be able to identify bullying language and action,” she said.
“Education around bullying is very important, not only for the children but for teachers, administrators and staff.
“Any adult who works in a school should know what bullying is and what it looks like.”
Cartoon Network Mena is a digital children’s TV channel that broadcasts animated programmes to around 60 million households across the region.
Officials said their campaign – called CN Buddy Network – would provide ways to counter intimidation and harassment.
“Being bullied is a very scary experience for young people,” said Ms Yaffe. “Children feel that if they tell someone, they will become the victim.
“It’s important for schools to develop strategies for children to report bullying. Pupils often hide the fact that they are being bullied as they feel frightened and embarrassed.”
According to a recent Cartoon Network survey, half of UAE parents with children aged between six and 12 were aware their children had suffered from bullying.
A 2018 poll of more than 64,000 Dubai pupils by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the emirate’s private school regulator, also found 11 per cent of children – more than 6,000 – did not feel safe in school.
Sara Hedger, head of child protection at Gems Education schools in the UAE, said some of their schools would be taking part in the initiative.
“At Gems, we have a safeguarding curriculum woven within our curriculum,” she said.
“Our focus is on prevention. How can we help children make good choices? We are looking to embed this in schools across the group.
“Embedding that message and hearing it from different people in different ways helps children to make sense of things.”
Darine El Khatib, senior director at WarnerMedia, which owns Cartoon Network, 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 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.”
Mr. Gabriel Rafi
- Graduated in neuropsychology and cognitive psychology from University Paris Descartes, France.