The members of COFACE Families Europe provide a wide range of support services to families, including support services to children, teachers, and parents on ways to tackle bullying and cyberbullying. The impact of cyberbullying on victims is well known; it affects their self-esteem, school performance and can even lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. Cyberbullying also has an impact on perpetrators, bystanders, parents and schools.
On 14th September, a delegation of the COFACE network took a closer look at the Greek digital platform “Live Without Bullying”, coordinated by KMOP in Greece. They reviewed the programme and used it as a starting point for European exchanges on the situation in their respective countries. Peer reviewers included: KFO Austria, Gezinsbond Belgium, CWSP Bulgaria, Step-by-Step Croatia, Women 4 Women Czech Republic, UNAF France, Vaestoliitto Finland, NOE Hungary, ASGECO Spain, and UNAF Spain.
The aim of the review was to look at the implementation of the good practice (Live Without Bullying) on a practical level, compare it with programmes and challenges in other countries, and assess whether and how it can be transferred to other contexts. The peer review was supported by Digital Parent consulting in the role of independent expert, as well as COFACE policy officers specialising in human rights and inclusive education/ digitalisation and cyber-bullying.
Immediately after the peer review, on Friday 15th September, COFACE Families Europe and KMOP hosted a public event “Innovative tools for combating bullying and cyberbullying. The European perspective” with Greek experts (teachers, researchers, NGOs, media and more) to present first outcomes of the peer review and have a public debate on the topic of school and cyber-bullying.
Some key messages from the peer review:
- Families clearly have a responsibility and role to play in preventing and addressing bullying. But they also need support.
- We talk a lot of respect of human rights, but children are not very aware of their rights, and neither are adults. This needs to be addressed.
- There is no common European definition of cyber-bullying. Moreover, the boundaries are not always clear between bullying, teasing..reality is always more complex than the theory, which sometimes makes it difficult to take action.
- Social and emotional learning were discussed, and the importance of teaching children about life skills, respect of others, diversity, and how to deal with their emotions, which led to discussions about the need to teach children about their online emotions.
- Nothing is black and white. There are pros and cons of technology. Technology can be very empowering, but not everyone is connected and a digital divide still persists today. There are pros and cons of anonymity. Anonymity is essential to protect the right to privacy, but it also depends on the purpose of anonymity use (e.g. to protect yourself versus to attack others). Anonymity needs to be taught to children.
- Technology is both part of the problem and part of the solution. The problem is not technology per se – it is the way we use the technology that is the problem. We need to empower people to harness technology positively.
- The holistic approach adopted by the “Live Without Bullying” platform is the ideal starting point, namely working not only with schools, children (victims, perpetrators, bystanders), teachers, but also with families, the media, the police, and others.
- Human rights need to be mainstreamed throughout education, as the starting point, creating a human rights culture, linked to real-life experiences.
- The best way to ensure maximum impact on reducing bullying/cyber-bullying is through a mix of both targeted and general actions: direct support to victims, parents, teachers, but also mediation services and general prevention programmes.
- Wider factors and forces at work: digitalisation, discrimination, culture, stereotypes, media, advertising. We need to build bridges with these stakeholders, including industry (e.g. the creators of media platforms, technological devices), to make them understand they have a role to play in addressing bullying.
On 30 May 2017, the European Commission presented its new strategy to support high quality, inclusive and future-oriented school and higher education. In its Communication School development and excellent teaching for a great start in life, the Commission identifies areas where action is urgently needed and how EU support can help EU countries address the current challenges. The three priority areas of action are: 1) Raising the quality and inclusiveness of schools, 2) Supporting excellent teachers and school leaders and 3) Improving the governance of school education systems.
The Communication highlights the following: “Bullying, cyberbullying, and violence undermines a child’s well-being and success at school. Physical and mental well-being are preconditions for successful learning. Evidence shows that strategies involving teachers and parents are the most effective in tackling all forms of bullying. In order to curb bullying and violence, children need to learn about tolerance and diversity. The same applies to online safety and the responsible use of social media”.
The COFACE Families Europe’s network is active in this area through national support programmes for children, teachers, parents on ways to tackle bullying and cyberbullying.
COFACE Families Europe coordinated the European Awareness Raising Campaign on Cyberbullying #DeleteCyberbullying from February 2013 to July 2014. The project was financed under the Daphne III programme of the European Commission. Read more about the project here