Online bullying, depression and sleepless nights: Survey reveals snapshot of children’s lives in one Yorkshire city

Children from 79 Sheffield schools took part in the survey. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Children from 79 Sheffield schools took part in the survey. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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CHILDREN as young as six in one of Yorkshire’s biggest cities have been bullied online, while worries about homework, using technology and even depression are keeping teenagers awake at night.

More than 8,000 children from age six to 15 from 79 schools across Sheffield took part in the Every Child Matters survey, which is used by the city council, health services and other organisations to shape their work with young people.

This year’s report, while highlighting successes such as a fall in the number of 14 and 15 year-olds smoking compared to 2014/15 and 2013, and that two-thirds of primary school pupils read at home most days, also makes clear the negative impact technology is having on some youngsters in the city, and how anxiety, bullying and mental health worries are affecting them.

Almost a quarter of children in Year 10 - those aged 14 and 15 - say they get six hours or less sleep a night, with the main things keeping them awake being the use of technology such as laptops and mobile phones, worrying about life and going to bed late.

Younger children are also sleep deprived, with just 53 per cent of Year Two children - those aged six and seven - saying they always got enough sleep.

A total of 10 per cent of Year 10s say they feel sad or depressed most of the time - the same figure as in 2014/15, while seven per cent of Year Sevens feel the same.

One in five Year 10s, and 27 per cent of Year Sevens have been bullied at school in the last year - with the most common thing they had been bullied about being their appearance.

Almost a third of Year 10 girls - 29 per cent - have been bullied online, while 16 per cent of boys the same age say they had too. Cyber-bullying is also affecting younger children, with 15 per cent of Year Twos and 17 per cent of Year Fives saying they had had nasty comments sent to them or put online about them.

The head of primary and targeted intervention at Sheffield City Council, Pam Smith, said much of the survey’s findings were in line with the national position, and that the authority had an e-learning team that worked on an “extensive” programme of support for schools to ensure students knew the implications of social media and cyber bullying.

“We are working rigorously with schools,” she said. “Fifty-six per cent of seven-year-olds and 60 per cent of Year Fives say they have rules around using the computer at home - but that leaves 44 per cent and 40 per cent who don’t. Not only do we have to put that training in place in schools but we have to extend it to parents too to make sure children stay safe.”

The survey, which takes the form of an anonymous questionnaire, also covered areas such as diet, exercise, emotional health, substance misuse, sexual health, friendships and relationships, being a young carer, online safety, fire and road safety, school, spare-time activities, the future and the environment.

The research found more needs to be done with regards healthy eating, with only a third of primary school pupils eating vegetables every day - however, more than two-thirds do some exercise most days. It also found there is a high consumption of sugary drinks across all age groups.

The cabinet member for children, young people and families, Coun Jackie Drayton, said: “This survey helps us to find out what matters to our children and young people, understand what their lives are like, develop our priorities and policies and make a difference to the way we deliver things.”