Cyberbullying in Europe on the Rise

Culture - November 26, 2023

Cyberbullying is an Increasingly Widespread Problem Throughout the World, with a Significant Impact on the Lives of Many Young People and Adolescents.

In Europe and, especially, in Italy, this phenomenon has attracted the attention of authorities, educators and parents, as it has serious and long-term consequences on the mental health and well-being of young people. “Virtual” bullying is a problem that knows no geographical boundaries and in Europe, as in the rest of the world, young people are exposed to various types of cyberbullying, including online trolling, exposure to offensive or harmful content and theft of digital identity. According to research conducted by EU Kids Online in 2019, around 26% of young Europeans aged between 9 and 16 said they had experienced cyberbullying at least once in their lives. These data highlight the broad scope of the problem in Europe. However, it should be noted that cyberbullying can manifest itself in different ways from country to country, due to cultural, social and economic differences and, in some European countries, for example, online bullying may be more prevalent on social media, while in others it may manifest primarily through text messages or emails. These differences require an adaptable and personalized approach to preventing and combating cyberbullying in Europe.

In Italy, cyberbullying is a growing problem among young people. According to a study conducted by the Telefono Azzurro Association in 2020, 23% of Italian children and young people have suffered cyberbullying, while 36% reported having witnessed cases of cyberbullying against others. These data demonstrate that the phenomenon is widespread and has a significant impact on Italian youth. Cyberbullying in Italy can manifest itself through the sending of offensive messages or threats, the dissemination of embarrassing or defamatory images or videos, and the use of fake usernames or accounts to damage someone’s reputation. These actions can have serious consequences on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, leading to problems such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

Cyberbullying is fuelled by various factors, including online anonymity, the ease of spreading harmful content, and the lack of adequate regulations on social media and online platforms. Online anonymity allows people to hide their identities while bullying, making it difficult for victims to identify attackers. The rapid spread of online content allows offensive or harmful messages to reach a large audience quickly, amplifying the damage caused. Furthermore, the lack of clear rules and effective supervision on online platforms makes it more difficult to prevent and combat cyberbullying. European and Italian authorities have consciously taken measures to address the problem of cyberbullying. In Europe, the European Commission has developed the “Better Internet for Kids” program to promote safe and responsible use of the Internet among young people. This program offers educational resources and promotes collaboration between governments, industry and non-governmental organizations to address cyberbullying.

In Italy, the government has adopted legislative measures to combat cyberbullying such as the “No Hate Speech Movement” law, passed in 2017, which punishes online hate speech and cyberbullying with criminal sanctions. Furthermore, educational initiatives were promoted in schools to raise young people’s awareness of the topic of cyberbullying and teach them how to prevent it. The speed with which online content spreads and the anonymity of online bullies make it difficult to identify and punish attackers and it will be essential to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Furthermore, laws and policies must be constantly updated to adapt to the rapidly evolving technology and ways of communicating online.

Cyberbullying is a serious and widespread problem throughout Europe but particularly in Italy, with serious consequences on the mental health and well-being of young people. Therefore, it is essential that authorities, educators, parents and online platforms work together to prevent and fight it, especially through education, awareness-raising, the promotion of responsible online behaviour and the adoption of effective laws and policies. Only through a collective effort we can protect young people from cyberbullying and create a safe online environment for all.