“Novus has laid the foundation for our continued work in many ways”

The survey is important when we drive public opinion and raise these issues. – Magnus Loftsson, research leader at Friends.

Three children in each class are exposed to bullying. This means that at least 140,000 Swedish schoolchildren experience some form of bullying. The results from Friends’ survey, which was carried out together with, among others, Novus, show a large increase in the number of vulnerable children. With the support of the survey, Friends can now continue their fight for a school without bullying.

The children’s rights organization Friends works to ensure that no child in the world is exposed to bullying. In order to find out how the Swedish school children feel and to map various aspects of bullying as well as how large the prevalence is today around Sweden, a survey was carried out together with Novus and Örebro University where school children in grades three to the last year of high school had to answer questions about their everyday life. The result is horrifying. In recent months, three children in each class have been subjected to bullying and every fifth child to repeated offensive acts. Half of the school children have been exposed once. This means that a total of 140,000 children are exposed to bullying at school, compared to 60,000 as the previous surveys showed.

– The situation has escalated and now we want to see society take powerful measures. It must not be like this, says Magnus Loftsson, research leader at Friends.

Requests updated school team and new recommendations

But all is not pitch black. Many times the digital world is accused of being a culprit in the drama, but the survey shows that the violations most often take place at school and not online. There are schools where the incidence of bullying is almost non-existent.

– The hopeful thing about the situation is that something can be done about it. The schools that are free from bullying do a lot of preventive work, with relationship-strengthening exercises and direct measures when violations occur, says Magnus.

Photo: Friends. The child in the picture has nothing to do with the text.

Friends wants the government to now appoint a commission against bullying and for the Swedish National Agency for Education to draw up clear recommendations for the schools.

– We want bullying to be explicitly mentioned in the School Act. Now it is up to each individual principal to decide what work in the matter should take place. There is primarily a lack of competence and resources in the schools where violations occur. That, in combination with increasingly higher demands on the students at the same time as the opportunities for support have been reduced, creates a situation that is a breeding ground for violations and power imbalance, says Magnus.

Fast results thanks to Novus

As the figures previously used are ten years old, from the National Education Agency’s evaluation against bullying and survey Attitudes in the School, Friends wanted to carry out a national survey themselves that gave an up-to-date picture of the situation.

Together with Örebro University and Novus, the basis was drawn up. One challenge was that the participants were children, which places extra demands on the approach and approval from the guardian. It was important that the questions were asked in the right way and that the selection was carried out correctly.

– We never told them that the investigation would be about bullying. Then we would have been able to get a skewed distribution in who chose to answer the questions. Both Örebro University and Novus have been very helpful in terms of how the questions were formulated and the selection we made, and Novus’ ability to reach as many people in the target group has been important. We could not have done this on our own. It had also taken far too long, with Novus’ help we got a result in a few months, says Magnus.

The results as help in further work

Around ten percent of the vulnerable children suffer from long-term suffering, such as mental illness.

– The survey is important when we drive public opinion and raise these issues. We now have statistically reliable data on how many are exposed and how much it costs society in the long run. We have also learned a lot about how schools can concretely map their situation, which helps us in our continued work. We have compulsory schooling in Sweden and no one should have to be forced to go to school with a lump in their stomach, asserts Magnus.

Photo: Friends. The child in the picture has nothing to do with the text.

Friends, together with Tietoevry, will develop a digital platform for the schools, “The digital twin against bullying”, where there will be survey support for how the schools can continuously find out how big the prevalence of bullying is, as well as a basis for how they can work both preventively and with incidents. The platform will be available to all schools, who simply log in digitally and collect the necessary material themselves.

– We will now, with financial support from the Heritage Fund, begin a needs survey that will give us the basis for developing the right support and help for children who have been exposed. That project is based on the fact that there are so many children today who are vulnerable and the statistically reliable survey which is so well conducted. Novus’ work has laid the foundation for our continuation in many ways.

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Cecilia Dahlheim
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