Cyberbullying has already become one of the biggest threats to minors in Spain. According to data made public in April 2019, the phone against bullying of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (900 018 018) attended between November 2017 and October 2018 a total of 5,557 related to possible cases of harassment. Between the ages of 10 and 13, 46% of the cases accumulate, while by type, psychological harassment occurs in 39% of calls, physical in 64% of possible cases; and cyberbullying, threats, insults or laughter through the networks occur in 78% of the calls received.

In this regard, the team of psychologists of the Ginso’s Recurra program (Association for the Management of Social Integration, expert in early conflict prevention) expresses its concern about the onset of this type of behavior at an earlier age. “According to various studies, the peak incidence of cyberbullying cases among minors is between 14 and 16 years old. But a significant fact is that we are seeing that the age at which this type of behavior used to start was around 14 or 15 years old, and now it is going down to 10 and 11 years, and this worries us a lot”, Explains Sophie Álvarez-Vieitez, deputy director of Recurra Prevention.

“The peak incidence of cyberbullying cases among minors is between 14 and 16 years old”

Experts point out that one of the possible reasons for this decrease in the age of initiation in cyberbullying is that children increasingly have access to technology at an earlier age but are not taught to use it correctly. From Ginso they also ensure that this is not only happening in relation to cyberbullying cases, rather, the average age has decreased in cases of bullying in general and even in the consumption of pornography.

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The specialists of this association delve into the importance of not separating both types of harassment that “they are practically on par. It is very rare that there is classroom bullying that does not continue with cyberbullying ”and they warn that although the ciberbullying can start with an isolated act It can end up having a much greater negative impact on the victim. “On many occasions, young people share a photo or video without ‘bad intention’ but, given the nature of social networks, this content can have a very large impact, and therefore the damage to the victim can also be considerable, ”explains Álvarez-Vieitez.

How should the school and parents act?

From Ginso they provide various tools to prevent, identify and address cyberbullying among children and adolescents. Although they acknowledge that from the educational environment it is more difficult to perceive this type of behavior – because adults do not usually share a digital environment with minors – they do advise to be alert to possible changes in the behavior of young people to detect the existence of a problem as soon as possible.

They also insist that the moment a case of cyberbullying is detected among students, the educational center must give it the importance it has and act accordingly even if this situation is occurring outside the classroom: “The first step is to identify the actors involved (aggressor / s and victim / as) to understand the situation. Next, talk to the families of both the bullies and the bullied, supporting the victim and helping the abuser understand that what he has done is wrong. In some cases even It is advisable to involve the whole class so that they understand the consequences of this type of abusive behavior on the Internet”.

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For its part, it reminds the parents, both those of the aggressor and those of the victim, that it is important that they act hand in hand with the school, trying not to point out or blame each other, but to work side by side. If similar messages are given from different areas it is easier for the message to stall.

In the case of the aggressor, “it is important that parents convey support to their son or daughter, but to make it clear that they do not support their behavior and that what happened is intolerable”Explains Álvarez-Vieitez. For their part, both the victim’s family and educational personnel should support and work with it as early as possible emotionally, since cyberbullying can lead to very serious emotional or mental situations, they warn from the association.

The importance of early digital education

Ginso points out that two other key factors in preventing cyberbullying are digital education and awareness of the consequences and seriousness of harassing another young person over the Internet. The experts also emphasize the importance of conveying to young people that anyone can become an aggressor and anyone can be the victim of a case of cyberbullying.

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To try not to give rise to these situations, experts recommend that parents educate their children in respect and acceptance of others. “Many times on the Internet, not having the other in front of you makes empathy diluted, which leads to doing or saying things that would never be done or said in the presence of the other person. That is why it is very important that parents work with children and adolescents empathy”, They emphasize.

On the other hand, it is essential to explain to minors that there is a code of conduct on the Internet, known as NETiqueta, which they must follow and respect. “One of the most important factors is that children are educated in this regard before they have a mobile phone or other similar device of their own so that when they have access to these they are more prepared from the point of view of respect for others on the Internet ”.