The Covid-19 pandemic has further intensified the presence of children and adolescents on the internet , after all, social isolation measures have meant that countless, if not all, activities of everyday school life are carried out in a digital environment. Socialization practices also had to be adapted, increasing the time available on the network for all people .
In this context, the discussion on digital violence, freedom of expression and the like became very necessary . However, these issues have been addressed for a long time as a result of technological advances and the constant emergence of new social networks. There is no way to prevent this growth from continuing and that, therefore, relationships develop new dynamics .
Therefore, it is important that society as a whole is committed to making this space as safe and tolerant as we want life outside it to be . Mainly for those who still do not have the discernment to identify limits in digital contact, as is the case with children and adolescents.
Cyberbullying and freedom of expression
For some time, much has been discussed about a practice of violence, physical and moral, which takes place in different environments, causing consequences that are often irreversible: bullying . Marked by ridicule, intimidation and/or aggression , the term gained a new development, which is conventionally called cyberbullying , that is, practices of micro and macro violence in the digital space .
When discussing strategies to address such serious issues as these, which mostly affect young people in the process of training and with little emotional and psychological resources to deal with violence, another issue is put into question: freedom of expression. Understanding the concept and how to exercise freedom of expression can help make the internet a less destructive place .
We commonly know “freedom of expression” as the right to express opinions freely . Alexandre Pacheco, PhD in scientific and technological policy, spoke about the subject in the panel Involvement of children and adolescents in swearing and offenses on the internet , of the 6th Children and Adolescents on the Internet Symposium , organized by the Information and Coordination Center of Ponto BR (NIC .br) , on November 8, 2021.
Pacheco, also coordinator of CEPI (Center for Teaching and Research in Innovation), when asked about how to deal with hate speech, brought to the debate an allusion made by John Stuart Mill, who associates freedom of expression with the Free Market, a model economic exchange of trade with minimal or no State intervention . The doctor in science policy then says that “freedom of expression” would be something like a Free Market of Ideas .
It is a space in which all ideas are placed for analysis, which, in a way, implies knowing how to choose which ones are best for each context . However, Pacheco explains that this market is not absolute, that is, if one of these ideas proposes to reduce or eliminate individuals who are part of it, it is no longer about free expression. “Discourses that can harm the identity, the personality, the formation of the individual”, he says, are, in fact, hate speech and must be fought .
Cyberbullying in Brazil
The Federal Constitution of 1988, in its 5th Article, guarantees compensation for material and moral damages resulting from the violation of people’s private life, intimacy, honor and image . In addition, the 17th article of Law No. 8,069 of the Statute of Children and Adolescents (ECA) provides for the right of children and adolescents to respect, guaranteeing the non -violation of physical, moral and psychological integrity , and the preservation of their images, identities, autonomy and the like.
Another very important law, of November 6, 2015, instituted the Program to Combat Systematic Intimidation ( Bullying ) throughout the national territory . With this, we see that these matters are already treated seriously by Brazilian law. However, there is still nothing that specifies, for example, how to deal with cyberbullying . This is very dangerous, since the virtual environment makes it possible to create fake profiles, which makes it quite difficult to identify and hold people accountable for their crimes .
In 2018, Brazil appeared in 2nd place in the ranking of online violence committed against children and adolescents , according to the survey carried out by the Ipsos Institute . Another survey, carried out in 2019 and 2020 by TIC KIDS Online 2019 , shows that girls are more vulnerable to this type of violence, representing 31% of cases, while boys figure in 24% of them .
In the same article, experts, such as the education director of SaferNet Brasil, Rodrigo Nejm , state that the greater the frequency of children and young people on the internet, the greater the chances of cyberbullying . This positions the discussion as an urgent topic of care and attention, given the pandemic scenario we have faced in the last two years.
Perspectives and solutions for cyberbullying
There is an African proverb that says that an entire village is needed to raise a child . Considering the current situation, with contexts of systematic, virtual and non-virtual intimidation, this seems to be a good way to ensure that the process of training young people is as profitable and complete as possible . A social commitment is needed, in all spheres and from all individuals.
Daniela Machado, coordinator of Educamídia and also a guest on the 3rd panel of the 6th Children and Adolescents Symposium on the Internet , states that media education has the “function of enabling us, of helping us to develop a set of skills that is so fundamental to take the best of what technology has to offer” .
She adds: “not only for us to consume information and media messages in a very reflective and critical way, but also for us to be able to produce content in a responsible way. Because nowadays we are all consumers and producers of content ”.
For her, it is necessary to extend the concept of illiteracy to digital media, that is, the fact that children and young people know how to handle technology does not guarantee understanding and discernment about how to behave on the internet . Therefore, the need for education aimed at making this space safe.
An image that corroborates very well with what Daniela Machado defends was brought by Facebook’s public policy manager, Mônica Rosina, who also participated in the event. For Mônica, it is necessary to take care of children on the internet in the same way as if we were crossing the street with them . No person in their right mind would allow a child to do this unattended. The same must be done in the digital stream. It is therefore necessary that parents and educators are monitoring children and young people in this environment .
Mônica Rosina understands that there are many challenges to deal with hate speech on the internet and says that there is no magic formula, it is a process. However, some limits are non-negotiable: safety and intolerance to any type of exploitation . In this sense, she presents optimistic data on how Facebook has improved in recent years. The removal of hate speech even before it was reported has increased to 95%, 4 years ago the number was only 27% .
Thinking about increasing social security on the internet, the non-governmental and non-profit organization SaferNet has organized a booklet with several online safety tips . The idea is to show young people, parents and educators how to properly use social networks, chat rooms and webcams . To access the document, simply access this link and click on “Download”.
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