The new generation, born in the digital age and which thrives in a world of constant connectivity often faces with cyberbullying, which nowadays troubles many young people more than drug abuse.

The Vodafone survey, commissioned from YouGov and held online with around 5,000 teenagers across 11 countries found that an average of around one in five (18%) teens across the countries surveyed had been cyberbullied and, as a result:

  • 41 % said cyberbullying made them feel depressed or helpless (also 41%);
  • 26 % felt ‘completely alone’ and 18 per cent experienced suicidal thoughts;
  • 21 % had ‘not gone to school’ and 25 per cent closed down their social media accounts;
  • 38 % said they did not tell their parents or guardians, as they felt ashamed (32%), scared their parents would get involved (40%), or worried what their parents might do (36%).
  • 43% of those surveyed would find it hard to support a friend who had been bullied on social media, as they ‘could not find the right words’ to show support.
  • 72% of teens said they would be likely to use an emoji to express compassion or support for friends being cyberbullied.

In response to the findings, Vodafone announced the #BeStrong anti-cyberbullying emoji initiative, which involved the creation of a suite of ‘support emojis’ to raise awareness of the importance of conveying compassion, sympathy and support when friends are being bullied online. The emojis were chosen by the 4,720 teens surveyed from a wide selection designed by Vodafone and its anti-bullying panel as their favourite symbols for compassion and support.

The Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone’s philanthropic arm, announces as part of its digital family programme that it will help raise funds for anti-bullying NGOs by donating 10p (14 cents) for every Twitter retweet or public Facebook like of Vodafone’s image of the #BeStrong emojis*.

The company is also talking to the major emoji app and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) towards featuring the emojis on their platforms in the near future.

The idea for a ‘support emoji’ was first brought to Vodafone by anti-bullying ambassador Monica Lewinsky, who has been a consultant on the initiative, working alongside semioticians (who study signs and symbols and their use or interpretation), anti-bullying NGOs including The Diana Award, ENABLE, a European Union project to help combat bullying, and Berkeley University Professor Dacher Keltner - the psychologist who advised on the creation of the characters for Pixar film Inside Out.