Published: Tue, 24 November 2020
Seán Kelly MEP has urged the EU to increase its efforts to prevent cyberbullying online, to empower young people and provide support to parents and teachers. In a letter to EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, the Ireland South MEP stressed the mental health implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people and set out a wish list of policy actions to help eliminate the problem.
“Cyberbullying is not a new phenomenon; unfortunately, it has already caused a great deal of hurt, distress and sadly very tragic consequences for many young people across Europe and in my country of Ireland.
“The nature of bullying online means it is incessant. Bullies can target their victims 24-7 online. It is my experience that 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”, said Kelly, a former secondary school teacher.
“I want to reiterate my call for the EU to champion the end of cyberbullying by creating an EU anti-cyber-bullying day to raise awareness of this specific issue, share best practice and resources amongst teens, parents and teachers. EU funding could be used for online campaigns across the EU to ensure our young people understand that they are not alone, they can and should seek help whenever they need it.”
In his letter to the Commission President, the Ireland South MEP called for the executive body to prioritise youth in its post-Covid recovery plans and their mental health: “I am concerned that the Covid-19 pandemic, and the social and sporting restrictions that are necessary at times to stop the virus spreading, will have long-term consequences for our youth. Also, many households have been more stressful atmospheres due to various factors during this time. These factors combined with bullying could prove to be incredibly difficult for children and teens.”
The EU is already very aware that while the internet provides many opportunities it also has poses risks with dangerous misinformation, hate speech and bullying, Kelly added. However, we must remain mindful of young people in our recovery plans.
MEP Kelly has also asked for a new Eurobarometer survey to be carried out on the prevalence of bullying and cyberbullying across the EU27, so the current extent of the situation can be better assessed.