In order to mark Safer Internet Day, the Internet Safe Center decided to open, in the Seminar Faz Delete ao Ciberbullying !, a discussion about one of the phenomena that has been marking the experiences of countless young people around the world in a negative way.
When opening the session, Lus Alveirinho, CTO of Altice Portugal, indicates that, most likely, the parents of the Internet would have no idea of the revolution that his invention would provoke in our society when they created it. The official explains that the exposure of our life on social networks is tremendous and digital platforms are not always our best friends. Our digital footprint does not disappear, so we must think very carefully before doing anything in the digital world, he says.
More educated and informed people will have safer behaviors, says Lus Alveirinho, referring to the importance of digital literacy in the current scenario. To combat illiteracy in this area, it is not enough to provide access to the latest technology: it is necessary to invest in training and include everyone in the digital transformation process.
The idea that training is an essential aspect of the digitization of society is also shared by Joo Costa, Deputy Secretary of State and Education. The digital transition is one of the four axes of the current Executive, but as he says, it is necessary to understand when technology becomes an instrument of dehumanization.
The Assistant Secretary of State highlighted the latest data from the PISA study (Program for International Student Assessment). In addition to 9 out of 10 students failing to distinguish facts from opinions, most students begin to answer items on a test or questionnaire before reading the questions. Transposing this information to the digital world, Joo Costa clarifies that the result that young people allow themselves to be manipulated by everything they see on the Internet.
The professor must today be the sole guarantor of the viability of the information that is available online, says the Assistant Secretary of State, especially in view of the advance of information that currently exists on the web. In addition, the school must be an instrument of inclusion, as violence applied through digital tools, such as cyberbulling, is an exclusion factor.
The Assistant Secretary of State states that bullying, whether inside or outside the online world, is not a problem for victims or aggressors: for everyone and we must be involved to solve it. Thus, initiatives promoted by the Government, such as School without bullying, School without violence, are of great importance in combating aggressive behaviors among the youngest.
How can parents help?
According to Elizabeth Milovidov, Independent Expert of the Council of Europe, parents need, more than ever, tools to help their children behave safer on the Internet. The expert has been developing several initiatives with the Council of Europe, similar to the European Network Against Bullying in Learning and Leisure Environments (ENABLE). Studies carried out by the project show that starting to teach children values such as empathy and kindness at age 11 may be too late.
Incidentally, Elizabeth Milovidov explains that, even with an abundance of worldwide initiatives against cyberbullying, the phenomenon is increasing. The researcher demonstrates that help requests for youth helplines have increased significantly since 2017, from 14.4% to 18% in 2019. The UK is one of the countries where more children and young people ask for help after being victims of cyberbullying. .
The world is becoming increasingly aggressive, says Elizabeth Milovidov, pointing to the latest cases of cyberbullying by politicians, the wave of individuals taking on a mob mentality and the growing phenomena of discrimination around the world.
The expert explains that the best method to prevent youngsters from being victims of cyberbullying or even aggressors, parents should speak openly and clearly about the risks of the online world with their children.
Monitoring online activities should be taken seriously and parents should regularly check what their children are doing on their social networks. However, the expert indicates that making a constant and too inquisitive observation may not be the best strategy. Here, balance is the key. According to Elizabeth Milovidov, educators can use day-to-day moments as learning experiences.
If you notice that something is not right with your children, follow your instincts and act, recommends the expert. In the face of a cyberbullying situation, Elizabeth Milovidov advises to help the youngest to document what happened and to report the violent acts through the support platforms of the digital platforms, blocking their bullies.
Children who are bullies also need support, says the specialist. In these cases, parents and educators should help children to understand the reason behind their behavior, leading them to understand that their actions are not right and how they can improve.