Why Europe needs an EU Anti-Bullying Day

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

We need an EU Anti-Bullying Day to become a symbolic milestone in our efforts and to remind to all Europeans that bullying and cyberbullying is a problem with no borders, no specific technological or platform connection, no easy solutions, write MEPs Phil Prendergast and Seán Kelly.

Phil Prendergast and Seán Kelly are members of the European Parliament, respectively from the S&D and the EPP  political groups.

"It may seem only symbolic, but creating an EU Anti-Bullying Day could help turn thoughts into action, to make the internet a better, and safer, place for kids and prevent future tragedies. Cyber bullying, and bullying in general, is a major issue for our children today and, unfortunately, does not concern only a minority: it is a widespread problem in Europe resulting in a rising number of suicides.

According to BeatBullying, a UK based charity, research shows that as many as seven out of ten young people have experienced some form of bullying, and it can have long-term effects. A recent study by British researchers found that primary school victims of bullying are five times more likely to inflict self-harm when they become adolescents

That’s why efforts by NGOs, social media platforms (like the Social Reporting tool developed by Facebook) and the EU Institutions (like the EU’s Daphne programme) are so important in defending the rights of the child. Those efforts must intensify.

Demonizing new platforms or technology is not the right approach. Innovation is not the problem; indeed, it is part of the solution. Seeing bullying through the eyes of youth, there is no divide between their online and offline lives. Social media is just another platform where bullying is a reality. We should put our focus on tackling behaviours and attitudes.

This is exactly what BeatBullying is targeting with its CyberMentor programme, which trains young people as mentors for bullying victims. The programme has already trained more than 7,000 CyberMentors – with the financial support of the European Commission, it will soon expand to seven more European countries (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic and Romania).

 “Does Europe need another European Day?” people will ask. Yes, as a way to urgently raise awareness among policy-makers and stakeholders and inform as many young people and parents about the tools and methods available to combat bullying at every level and platform. This is the message that we will try to pass on the 25 June when we co-host an event in the European Parliament, together with NGOs and social media platforms, to raise that awareness and to generate support for a European day against bullying.

What we need is to fight misperceptions about the causes of bullying and target the real bullseye: behaviour. Yes, we need an EU Anti-Bullying Day to become a symbolic milestone in our efforts and to remind to all Europeans that bullying and cyberbullying is a problem with no borders, no specific technological or platform connection, no easy solutions. But it is a problem that we can and must solve together."

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