PRESS RELEASE BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT: We cannot be passive, in the face of so many broken children and young people”

PRESS RELEASE BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT: We cannot be passive, in the face of so many broken children and young people

President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca delivered the opening speech during a Public Conference on Digital Dangers entitled ‘Type In Love, Type Out Hate’, organised by the Office of Member of the European Parliament Marlene Mizzi.

The President said that anonymous online bullying is a relatively new phenomenon that is unfortunately becoming increasingly common. According to a report published last year by the European Commission, entitled ‘Cyberbullying Among Young People’, more than one in ten 11 to 16 year-olds, are reporting that they have experienced serious online bullying.

Cyberbullying, at its core, involved the malicious misuse of electronic and digital media. These technologies are today an integral part of many people’s social and working lives, in particular, for younger generations. However, for our children and young people to enjoy the positive benefits of online communication, it is necessary to prevent or, indeed, to put a stop to cyberbullying, President Coleiro Preca said.

The President stated that mainstream media education and media literacy are powerful ways of preventing and potentially ending the risks of cyberbullying. Despite Europe giving visibility to these issues for over a decade, according to the European University Institute, only four European countries have a well-developed media literacy policy, while twelve have an underdeveloped policy. Three European countries, including Malta, have no policy at all.

President Coleiro Preca said that the need for a Maltese media literacy policy is particularly necessary, in the light of what we know, about the growing risks of cyberbullying in Malta, adding that media literacy must become an intrinsic part of our national and European educational curricula, in line with the European Commission’s 2009 report on ‘Media Literacy in Europe’.

The President said that our children and young people must be educated in the correct use of electronic and digital media to keep themselves safe at all times, and that digital literacy must be recognized by all as an essential life skill.

The President made an appeal for the laws of our country to reflect the growing concern, which many people, including parents, feel, towards safeguarding the best interests of children and young people.

I believe that we must strengthen existing laws but also to consider a potential specific law, which highlights the crimes of cyberbullying,; the President also said that legal measures need to be paralleled with a more positive outlook, which reinforces the importance of a culture of respect.

This is an integral part of a positive peace approach, which ensures that the wellbeing and the peace of mind of the people of our nation is truly at the heart of all our policies, Coleiro Preca added.

President Coleiro Preca also stressed the importance of respectful communication in public life, among adults � a topic which is at the forefront of our children’s and young peoples’ minds.

We must take careful responsibility for our words and our actions; if we want to see our children and young people change their macho-style attitudes, towards each other, the President said.

The President encouraged all those present to work together by creating synergies among educators, parents, and professionals, to explain the true meaning of cyberbullying to children and young people; why it is wrong; and what will happen if they themselves engage in cyberbullying, while also enforcing the consequences if the rules are broken.

President Coleiro Preca also proposed that it must be ensured that both the victims and the perpetrators of online bullying have access to effective psycho-social care to ensure that, there is no escalation in the negative effects of cyberbullying.

Coleiro Preca called for everyone across Europe to work together to produce a holistic action plan that targets issues of bullying both in the short and long-term.

Finally, we must all, especially those of us in positions of authority, be an example of respect and harmony, to our children and young people. In this way, we shall build a proactive culture of solidarity, and of positive peace, for the benefit of both present and future generations of children and young people, across our Maltese Islands and beyond, the President concluded.

Source: Government of Malta