Buenos Aires, November 2020 - The Foro del Sur Foundation and the Association of Women Judges of Argentina, through the Accelerate Equality initiative, organized the meeting entitled GROWING UP WITHOUT VIOLENCE: Cyberbullying, a global challenge; to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Representatives of the public power, justice, companies and civil organizations reflected on the consequences of cyberbullying and the protection strategies against such practices, and called for joint work between the State powers and the civil society.
Throughout the discussion, the specialists agreed on three fundamental aspects when it comes to combating cyberbullying: listening carefully to the victims, accompanying and educating taking into account the psychological and physical consequences that abuse and virtual harassment bring, especially on children, girls and adolescents.
For Marlise Ilhesca Jozami, Executive Director of the Foro del Sur Foundation, "this problem allows us to reflect on what kind of society we want to live in, where technology is at our service as an information and education tool".
The meeting included the participation of the Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Nation Marcela Losardo, who assured that the Ministry is carrying out a strong public policy focused on raising awareness and preventing harassment through digital media whose victims are boys, girls and adolescents.
“We are aware that cyberbullying and grooming can have psychological and physical consequences in children derived from manipulation by an adult or peers, which is why we are focused on promoting spaces for dialogue and construction. We have to strengthen the bonds of trust and conversation on these issues that are not new but appear new for many of us”, Losardo said.
At the same time, she highlighted the importance of this type of meeting to protect the rights of children: "We believe that the role of society's organizations is essential to carry out these actions", said the minister, at the same time that she valued intersectoral work as a fundamental strategy to “be able to combat this scourge”.
Coinciding with this, Juan Bautista Mahiques, attorney general of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, stated that "it is essential to promote a profound cultural change of which the different actors in society have to have an active part".
The prosecutor explained that cyberbullying today is not classified as a crime but it is the entrance to the commission of other crimes and that it leaves all its victims in an extreme degree of vulnerability. "On the internet there is no right to be forgotten, once the information is online it is very difficult that it be eliminated, so the damage generated is increasing", Mahiques said.
For her part, the director of the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) Victoria Donda highlighted the importance of listening to those who suffer this violence and stated that “cyberbullying shows that there are many people who hate and practice violence".
“Defending oneself from hatred is defending oneself from violence, and defending oneself from violence is building a peaceful society”, Donda said.
Throughout the discussion, videos were also shared that are part of the Rap Digital initiative, organized by UNICEF and the Provincial Organization for Children and Adolescents with the support of Faro Digital, so that boys and girls can give voice to what they live on Internet.
Pilar Rodríguez Argueta also called to listen and in that sense warned about the revictimization by adults that falls on children and adolescents who suffer cyberbullying. She also highlighted the gender issue linked to this problem "where 89% of these victims are still women", explained the director of Child Protection and Legal Affairs at the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).
Jordi Martin, Cybercrime Prevention Specialist at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), emphasized that at this time of hyper-connection and hyper-exposition, we must not forget that behind the screens there are human beings and that "the consequences of digital life have an impact on real life".
Also representatives of private companies such as Google and Facebook made known the strategies that these companies carry out for online security. Specialists Daniele Kleiner Fontes, Manager of Welfare and Security for the Latin American Region at Facebook and Margarita Abella Hernández, Specialist in Education for Users in Digital Security at Google, agreed on the importance of information and education to mitigate risks.
Margarita Abella Hernández stated that “children are acquiring their devices on the internet between the ages of 8 and 9 on average, they know how to open, close and download an application but they know very little about the dangers, what information they should share and what to do when faced with bullying. 75% of child sexual abuse material is self-produced, it is the children who are manipulated into sharing it," she added.
Cecilia Pastorino, Educational Mentor from Argentina Cibersegura, stressed the importance of children learning the right to take care of their own image and that of others and the role of adults in accompanying them to learn how to use the Internet responsibly.
Along these lines, for Lucía Fainboim, Director of Education at Faro Digital, the priority is education and digital upbringing. For the expert, it is about transferring to the Internet "criteria and reflections that we have in other areas and understanding that this space has characteristics like any other and we must give it materiality so that the children understand that there are people on the other side".
María Zysman, Director of the team of Diagnosis, Prevention and Intervention of the Civil Association Free of Bullying, in agreement with all the above, stressed the importance of weaving networks, working on empathy and the role that adults have in the fight against this problem: "That the boys understand that when they feel disgust or fear of something that they ask, it is a sign that they have to ask for help, those feelings are what function as a protective signal", Zysman closed.
The conversation was moderated by Sandra Verónica Guagnino, founding partner of AMJA and AMJA-CABA delegate. Prosecutor of the Criminal, Misconduct and Misdemeanor Chamber of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires