Bullies have always existed and have always made puberty and adolescence of many guys an ordeal. Even in Cuore, by E.De Amicis, among the many Enrico’s schoolmates, there is also Franti, a boy who would now fall into the category of the worst-case bullies.
So, what is disquieting families (and young people) in view of the increasingly frequent news about violence not just physical among youngster? There is a new technological dimension of bullying where each action achieves visibility not feasible in the past, with an inevitable and ill-omened emulation effect. Of course a key role is in the hands of smartphones and social networks.
Against news like that of Facebook’s live group rape in Chicago, by a bunch of brats against a peer, what strikes is the indifference and collusion of the “audience”: none of the 30 people online, has promptly called 911. It’s the verge of bullying, where its criminal nature is unveiled. The age of those involved and the way they do it says why the phenomenon raises warning and a new feeling of danger coming from social networks and whatsapp as well.
According to a recent survey by La Sapienza University and the Post Police, standard issues aggressive behavior are focused whereof concern physical appearance, shyness, elements of failure to aggregate to strong groups, clothing, lack of bravery, lack of ease, disobedience to transgressions, religion, adhering to rules, parenting addiction, being fearful, skin color, disability. Research shows another alarming finding, namely that 8 children out of 10 are no aware of the line between prank and violence: Hurting, ridiculing or turning aggressive phrases on social networks is not serious. Verbal network attacks are not considered serious as there is no physical violence. Publish unauthorized images of the victim is not considered serious.
We are scratching just the surface of the situation where there are so many questions, especially by the parents (both the bully and the victim ones). the first is: how can you protect yourself?
The school, national and European institutions, even with the help of companies especially hi-tech, seek to raise public awareness towards the problem, even to keep the focus high. An analysis by the Euro-Parliament published at the end of 2016 described the situation of cyber bullying in the EU countries, highlighting first and foremost what is meant by this term in each of the states (not agreed everywhere), the various forms of cyber bullying and the tools used, the age of reference, policies and laws of any organization. Every state has been thoroughly analyzed. The result is that only Spain currently has legislation that considers cyber bullying as a crime and therefore punish it.
In Italy, although the phenomenon is well-known (just think of the 16-year-old Carolina Woodpecker, who died suicide driven to despair 3 years ago), a bill of law remains in Parliament waiting to be approved for a long time. Last February, at World Day for Safety on the Internet, the need to speed up the legislative process of a law that allows for a legal reference (together with the strengthening of educational and cultural actions) that clearly indicates the difference between prank and violence or humiliation, has been widely served by the institutions and other entities.
Just remember that Istat had already discovered in the past few years that in Italy just over 50% of the 11-17 year olds have been bullied (offline and online); and in 2016, the Postal Police reported that 235 complaints were filed for online offenses (18%), insults, threats and harassment (37%), stalking (3%), identity theft on social networks (30% ), spread of child pornographic material (13%) with minors as victims. In 31 cases, those sued were children and 6% of teenagers is victim of cyberbullying. Obviously, complaints represent only a small part of the phenomenon.
A reference standard is necessary for victims to take legal action against bullies and technological platforms as well, which often could and should do more to hinder these events.
The reference standard would be useful even in cases of potential involvement of insurance companies, thus supposing a new form of insurance against cyber bullying risk. What type of cover and support could be offered by the latter?
Some companies offer policies that are similar to cyber-risk ones for companies, compensating for all damages: Legal fees, medical expenses for psychological support, reputation damage, activities required to reintegrate online the person’s profile, expenses incurred for school exchange, for any hospital admission, for extended absences from work by parents. Of course, a policy cannot prevent the events from happening, as is the case of cyber risk: the issue of prevention is always valid.
The use of big data could provide an help in this respect: Hello Soda, a large-data and text analytics start-up UK based, is able to use this information to profile people with a high level of detail, also providing analysis of risk profiles. The software was born for business, for customer profiling, but by the end of 2015 the company also launched a family product able to provide a non-intrusive manner to monitor children’s online life with the consent of the underage person involved, analyzing whether they have appropriate behavior and identifying risk exposure. A daily report and real-time alerts, with geo-localization of social activities, allow the parent to control the child’s digital life. The price? Less than 5 pounds a month.
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