A new global survey issued by UNICEF on #WorldChildrensDay reveals that almost 7 out of 10 children in Malaysia worry a lot about bullying, compared to only 3 out of 10 in Japan or close to 4 in 10 in the UK.

Children in Malaysia also worry a lot about other global issues, such violence against children (64%) and terrorism (60%); while their top picks for world leaders to focus attention on are education for the poor (17%), poverty and terrorism (15%).

The comparative survey involved 11,000 boys and girls between 9 and 18 years old in 14 countries from all regions across the world, including Brazil, Egypt, India, Turkey and the USA. The global UNICEF survey echoes findings from the Children4Change opinion poll conducted locally in Malaysia in terms of children’s concerns and priorities.

“The survey clearly demonstrates that children in Malaysia take an interest in global issues and are concerned about their impact on their lives and that of their peers. They also have opinions about issues affecting them closer to home. The comparative findings of the global survey highlight issues of particular concern to Malaysian children compared to others, bullying for example, and this should be taken seriously and addressed”, said Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia.

“Unfortunately, over half feel that even when asked their opinion, they are not really listened to, or that their voice does not influence change. As adults we should listen, we should consult children in issues that affect them and take their opinion into account. Although we might think it, we don’t always know what is best for them. When children and adolescents are engaged and encouraged to participate, it builds confidence, global citizenship and helps build democratic and peaceful societies. So, on this World Children’s Day – when children speak up, listen up,” added Ms. Clark-Hattingh.

Other key findings from Malaysia include:

a) Issues and Concerns

  • Over three-quarters of children in Malaysia (77%) are worried about being bullied, and being affected by threats such as climate change (77%), poverty (74%), education access (74%) and terrorism (74%).
  • More than half the children polled in Malaysia (53%) express mistrust of adults and world leaders responsible for making decisions on their behalf, compared to 68% in the UK, 59% in the USA and 81% in Brazil.

b) Right to be Heard

  • Children in Malaysia feel their opinion is most appreciated by family (92%), friends (88%) and teachers (76%), which is similar to the trends in the UK or in the USA.
  • More than half the children in Malaysia (54%) feel their voice is not heard at all or does not help bring about change, compared to 51% in Japan, 61% in the USA, and 71% in the UK. The only exception is India at 40%.
  • A clear majority of children in Malaysia (95%) believe that the world would be a better place for children if their leaders would listen to the voice of children. This percentage is higher than in any other surveyed country (89% in the USA; 85% in the UK; 77% in Japan), except South Africa (97%).

c) Interests, Hobbies, Media Consumption

  • Barack Obama is the number one choice Malaysian children would invite to their birthday, followed by Tun Mahathir Mohamed. In third place are Cristiano Ronaldo, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Siti Nurhaliza, and Jack Ma.
  • Watching TV is the top favorite pastime for children in Malaysia (65%), similarly to Brazil (67%), India (68%), Japan (58%), UK (59%) and USA (54%). Children in Malaysia also spend equal time on social media (59%) as doing their homework (59%).
  • At 80%, smart phone usage is higher amongst Malaysian children than children in USA (74%), UK (73%) or Japan (63%).

UNICEF hopes World Children’s Day will inspire governments, businesses and communities across the world to listen to children and incorporate their opinions in decision-making processes that affect them.

In Malaysia, around 30 children from across the social spectrum, including those with disabilities, will ‘takeover’ Malaysian media to make their voices heard on the occasion of World Children’s Day on November 20th.  Over 10 major media partners spanning TV, radio, print and online across the country will participate in this global movement under this year’s theme, #ForEveryChild.