Position Paper on Cyberbullying and Social Networks
We live in a globalized, open world, full of opportunities and with unlimited access to a significant amount of information. Our children are members of social networks, and despite our concerns, appear to be engaging with them more and more and a younger and younger age.
We are the first generation of parents and educators who are learning to live with social networks but have not grown up with them, nor have we been educated or instructed in how they operate. We may like to believe that the internet and social networks have nothing to do with us. We may even believe that we can ignore their existence altogether regardless of their omnipresence; we may be unaware of how or when the internet and social networking began, believe that they are part of another world or that they are meant for others.
However, whether we like it or not, we must accept that these tools are here to stay, that even if we close our eyes or look away, the world has changed. The digital world is no longer a restricted phenomenon accessible to only a few, it is in fact quite the opposite, and access for all is being pursued as a norm and a basic requirement.
The internet and social networks are tremendously positive, can confer enormous advantages and give us as parents the opportunity to share something new with our children: something that is of interest to them and can allow us to participate in their lives, problems, dreams or concerns.
The aim of parental presence on the internet and in social networks should not be the control of our children, the intention to violate their freedom or invade their privacy. Children have a desire to communicate with the world and we should not exclude ourselves from it. We should be able to establish a healthy relationship with each one of them, and ensure that we cannot only speak with them about anything that may worry them, but also have a presence there as parents, not as friends. Our children must learn about the whole marvelous world of opportunities and relations offered by social networks, but they should also talk with us and feel accompanied and helped by us.
By means of a screen and a keyboard, whether from a PC, a tablet or a mobile phone, we can do a lot of harm or a lot of good. Our role as parents and educators is the same in connection with social media and the Internet as in all other aspects of life, it is to help our children find the right paths and try to protect them from danger and failure.
Points of Consideration and Call for Action
- Parents as first educators of their children have to equally apply this role in connection to social networks and the Internet as they do in all other aspects of their children’s lives.
- Parents need information and training in relation to the internet and social networks. National Parents§ Associations should provide courses, trainings and other means of support (e.g. help lines) in this field. National Parents` Associations should have a strategic role in the organization and execution of information/prevention campaigns both at EU and national levels The EU and its Member States must provide funds for education and information/prevention campaigns targeted for children and parents.
- Parents are responsible for the education of their children in relation to good social behaviors, in everyday life, as well as on the internet and in the social networks, where there is the possibility of sharing private content such as private messages, pictures, videos. Parents are aware and concerned about the associated risks in relation to the internet and social networking and therefore call for additional protections for children when registering for such services. This must include an additional stage during registration that clearly brings to the child’s attention that they must inform their parents that they have registered with the site. We as parents are sometimes legally or financially responsible for crimes or abuses committed by our children. There must therefore be a way by which parents are informed about any possible criminal contents posted or shared on the profile of their children to avoid or limit the risk of having such crimes or abuses. We acknowledge that this is a sensitive area and seek solutions to this issue which do not violate the basic rights of the child.
- Parents demand that companies and owners of social networks fully respect the rights of the child in the operation of their sites. EPA requests that it is afforded a principal mediating role with the companies and owners of the social networking sites to ensure these rights are upheld. EPA calls on social network providers to set rules about and to carry out appropriate control and supervision of the content published on their sites, including violent and vulgar ads and banners. This includes the development and application of tools to control the content posted on user profiles by the users themselves and by others, to check if they are vulgar, abusive or violent. Measures should be taken in order to make social networks safe tools for the child, free from unsuitable content, where parents can be confident that their child is safe.
- All minors must be protected on social networks to the greatest possible extent. We insist that our children must have the ability to delete their data and personal information and/or content that are harmful or a bully to them: it is very important to guarantee the opportunity to the youngest and most vulnerable people the right to remove their personal data as well as content, images, videos and comments. This issue must be prioritized by internet and social network providers.
The National Parents’ Associations belonging to EPA (European Parents’ Association), based on the basic parents’ right and duty to educate their children and foster their healthy development, in all fields including the correct use of Social Networks and in particular the importance of protecting their children from the more and more frequent episodes of cyber bullying; ask the institutions of the European Union, the individual Member States and all relevant stakeholders to introduce measures to ensure the considerations of the above Points for Consideration and Call for Action. We ask this in order to improve the protection of children in the world of the Internet and to reduce the harms caused by (cyber) bullying.
The European Parents` Association hereby joins the Big March, the cyberbullying prevention initiative demanding:
- New laws to protect the right of European children to live without the fear of bullying and cyberbullying
- Sufficient funding for services that prevent and protect European children from bullying and cyberbullying
- A European day against bullying