New Child Rights Strategy must tackle cyberbullying – Sean Kelly MEP

The EU’s forthcoming Child Rights Strategy, due to be published in March, must include a clear focus on digital safety, literacy and empowerment for youth in order to combat cyberbullying which can have very tragic consequences, Seán Kelly MEP has said on Safer Internet Day (9 February).

The Ireland South MEP has continuously advocated for more EU action, funding and awareness-raising, to tackle cyberbullying and has welcomed confirmation from the European Commission President, that more measures are planned for 2021:

“President von der Leyen has confirmed that the Commission plans to include a digital focus in the upcoming Child Rights Strategy in March. This needs to include provision for equipping young people with the knowledge and tools to effectively respond if they experience cyberbullying, so they know how to recognise it and effectively seek help. I am also pleased that President von der Leyen committed to continuing to fund safer internet activities, including awareness-raising activities by the Safer Internet Centres under the new Digital Programme as well as crucial educational programmes to promote inclusion.

“Such initiatives are vital as young LGBTIQ people, children with disabilities and those from minority groups can sometimes be more at risk of bullying. We need to ensure all children and young people can fully benefit from a positive educational experience free from the threat of bullying online or offline”, Kelly said, welcoming correspondence from President von der Leyen in response to his recent call for more EU action.

In responding to MEP Kelly, President von der Leyen also recognised his concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic might have amplified certain risks for youth, including cyberbullying.

“The nature of bullying online means it is incessant. Bullies can target their victims 24-7 online. Young people often focus on the here and now, do not have the same long-term perspective as adults and so, difficult times can seem insurmountable if they do not seek or have the necessary support to help them. Covid-19 has made matters worse as many young people are missing their regular activities and meeting up with friends”, Kelly has warned.

The Fine Gael MEP will closely examine the forthcoming proposals in the children’s rights strategy, due on 24 March, with a view to ensuring that the problem of cyberbullying is adequately addressed with concrete measures to help better protect youth across the Member States.

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