On the 22nd and 23rd of September, German and Polish Safer Internet Centers jointly held another edition of their major Safer Internet Conference in Warsaw, Poland. The conference revolved around several key topics such as privacy, sexuality, risky content, data ethics, cyberbullying and inappropriate online behaviours. Many key issues were touched upon such as:
-The growing use and exploitation of private data as a business model and the dawn of private data as a currency to pay for online content.
-The impact of sexting and exposure to sexually explicit content on children’s and young people’s sexuality, which borders on cyberbullying as well.
-How to secure your right to privacy online and some concrete tips to keep your data safe from unethical uses.
COFACE, represented by Martin Schmalzried, sat on a panel discussion dedicated to challenges and visions concerning child safety online in the present and in the future. The three main points addressed by COFACE were related to cyberbullying.
How to reach out to parents that are unaware of cyberbullying?
Some parents will always be left out and feel helpless when it comes to dealing with cyberbullying. Just like other topics such as sexuality, not all parents feel ready to discuss certain topics for a variety of reasons. Schools and teachers remain the best way to ensure a common knowledge and awareness about issues such as cyberbullying. That was why a universal schooling system was set up in the first place: to level the playing field and give each child the same chances in life through education. However, this is no reason to give up on parents and we should always try to reach out to them to make them feel more concerned and involved about issues such as cyberbullying. Examples include:
-Organising parents evenings in schools or through organisations such as family associations.
-Presenting them with easy tools and steps to protect their children online.
-Information campaigns via magazines and newsletters from family associations or the provision of easy tools and multimedia resources such as those delivered by the #DeleteCyberbullying project.
How do you explain the difference in awareness about cyberbullying between EU countries?
It all has to do with cultural differences and the environment. For instance, in some countries such as the Scandinavian countries, topics like sexuality, violence or gender roles are openly discussed by the wider public, while in other countries such as the southern Member States, these topics are much less “taboo”. Such cultural differences, among many other factors, may explain the differences in attitudes towards an issue like cyberbullying. For instance, in COFACE’s awareness raising video about cyberbullying, we have received many comments implying that cyberbullying is not such a tragic issue, after all, it’s “just” a few online words that you can easily ignore, especially if “you are a man”.
Parents often don’t come to parent evenings at school. How can they be more inclined to come?
There are many strategies for securing parents’ participation but we would like to put the focus on work-life balance. Parents and teachers are living busy lives. With both parents working, there is little time left for parenting, personal activities, social activities and household responsibilities. Securing a better work-life balance would enable parents to have more time to attend parent evenings and get more involved in their parenting, including digital parenting. COFACE has carried out a full campaign last year on work-life balance.