Social, web and bullying, the risks for young people (and children)

Rboys alone, for too long, with a screen. And the risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of bullying is very high. This is what emerged from the investigation “Between digital and cyber risk: risks and opportunities of the web”, made by Moige (Italian Parents Movement) in collaboration with thePiepoli Institute. The study analyzed the relationship of young people with social networks and various devices (smartphones above all) by interviewing 1,316 minors from 6 at 18 years old. And it found that 22% of them exceed the 5 hours a day connected, 63% connect to the internet without any supervision (in 2021 it was 59%). Is that 31% of young people have been victims of cyberbullying at least onceagainst 23% in 2020. Furthermore, that minors who are victims of bullying in real life, or who have suffered it at times are 54%, against 44% in 2020.

Web and social networks, solitary pleasure

Over the last year, therefore, for many kids, the smartphone has replaced chats with friends, family conversations, and even the reviled television. The small screen, an educational nightmare for previous generations, was at least capable of reuniting the family and generating opportunities for discussion. Maybe not always, but sometimes yes, it could happen.

Social media, on the other hand, is a solitary “pleasure”, from which adults are excluded (1 in 4 clears the history). Approximately 2 out of 3 teenagers declare that they use the telephone much more than before, and do so without the presence of their parents or brothers and sisters. Only 1 in 3 parents set limits on connection time, and less than half of parents know what their child is doing online. And unfortunately, social media does not allow parents to have any control over the activities of their minor children.

Social networks as the only source of information

The web is a source of information, often fallacious, for young people: almost 4 out of 5 Italian teenagers get information on events happening in the world, especially on social networks. And they do so while openly declaring that they have “fallen into the trap” of fake news in 56% of cases. But it is also naturally a source of relationship. On Instagram and Tik Tok, to which 62% of young Italians are registered, even between the ages of 11 and 14, photos, videos, entire lives end up. 6% of young people say they have exchanged personal photos with others via social media and 30% have given their phone number to strangers.

6 out of 10 children have witnessed bullying

Bullying is present in schools and outside schools, so much so that almost 6 out of 10 children have witnessed bullying, and almost one out of two has witnessed cyberbullying. Not only are the victims powerless. Even those who simply find themselves witnessing episodes of physical or verbal aggression don’t know how to behave or ignore it (56%). Bullying varies from prank calls to threatening and insulting messages to photos or videos. In front of these acts, boys feel angry (37%), alone (25%), isolated (23%). A state of mind that one in two 48% share with parents, one in 4 with friends, but only 14% with teachers.

Verbal offenses, physical violence and body shaming

The phenomenon seems to affect boys more than girls both in real life (57% of boys have been victims of bullying, against 50% of girls) and in virtual life (32% against 29%). In 42% these are verbal offenses, but physical (26%) and psychological (26%) violence are also frequent. In the case of cyberbullying, however, 14% suffered jokes or silent phone calls, 11% received insults via instant messages, 10% via SMS, 3% via photos or videos and even 2% received threats. In these circumstances, the most common feeling is loneliness and feeling isolated (28%), followed by anger (27%) and fear (25%).

Interviewed, with multiple answers, on the reasons that lead to bullying or bullying behavior towards others, 54% indicate body shaming. While among the reasons that push bullies to act in this way, 50% say that in this way they prove to be stronger than the others, 47% enjoy making fun of others, for 37% the bully behaves in this way way because he likes others to fear him.

Lizzo and the outburst (in bikini) against body shaming: «This body is art»

How to react to episodes of bullying on social media and in life?

When asked how classmates behave when witnessing these situations, only 34% answered “they help the victim”, a figure that was 44% in 2020. On the other hand, the percentage of teachers who intervene promptly (46% against 40% in 2020) when they realize that an episode of bullying is taking place is increasing. A 7%, however, declares that the teachersalthough they realize what is happening, they do nothing to stop the bullying.

Prohibited content: Onlyfans

Despite registration to Onlyfans is prohibited for minors under the age of 18, 3% of respondents admit to having a personal account, a similar percentage is also detected in the 11-14 age group, and 1% of respondents shared materials online. After all, the network seems to be paying little attention to preventing minors from having access to content that is forbidden to them. 21% say they always or often view adult content, only 21% rarely. When asked if, in the case of browsing on prohibited sites, they were asked to be of legal age before allowing access, 83% answered no.

Digital citizens against cyberbullying and cyber risk

The survey was also an opportunity to launch the seventh edition of the campaign “Young Ambassadors for digital citizenship against cyberbullying and cyber risk”, which involves thousands of students, teachers and parents every year.

300 schools will be involved, around 75,000 pupils, over 2,000 teachers and 150,000 parents nationwide, some of which will be reached by the “Mobile support and support center for victims of bullying and cyberbullying”, the traveling office of the Moige aimed at ensuring concrete and immediate help to the victims and their families and at countering the phenomenon with targeted prevention and information actions.

A positive digital culture is possible

The goal is to spread a positive digital culture, which passes through awareness of cyber risks and the acquisition of skills for constructive conflict management. Both from the children and, of course, from the teachers and parents. The Moige campaign will also bring 5 Young Ambassadors to each institute, young people who will become a point of reference to whom they can turn for help and training.