Share a smile. Like love. Hate hatred.
International Safer Internet Day marked by pupils’ debate on digital violence
Belgrade, February 05, 2013 – With the “Share a smile, like love, hate hatred” debate, 40 pupils from 5 elementary and 5 secondary schools from Zrenjanin, Belgrade, Kruševac, Jakovo, and Ljig, marked the international Safer Internet Day. They showed they were aware of all dangers in the virtual world, but that they often did not know how to react suitably and protect themselves. The debate participants came from the schools where the survey within the “Stop Digital Violence” project, implemented by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development – Violence Prevention Unit, UNICEF and Telenor, had already been conducted. The aim of the project is prevention of misuse of digital media and raising awareness on the role and relevance of digital media in modern life.
The pupils discussed their experience and the survey results and provided their recommendations on reducing the Internet risk. They are aware of the fact that a violent person may remain anonymous in the virtual world and that even a practical joke can turn into an incident with permanent consequences. Although they know about potential threats, the pupils admit that only after experiencing violence on the Internet themselves can they realise its scope. They used personal examples to illustrate emotional traumas that might be caused by malicious acts on the Web. “One reckless comment on someone’s photo may result in spreading the story and insults for an entire group, labelling that person throughout school years,” said of the pupils. This situation may be overcome with support of friends and family, as confirmed by the case of a girl who was virtually persecuted at a social network by peers from the old school after she had changed schools.
They also discussed how easily most users publicised their personal data in social media, mainly through non-selective acceptance of friend’s requests at Facebook. The survey has shown that at least two pupils in each class accept meeting a person they met on the Web, sometimes without realising that it is an adult.
Participants sincerely admit that sometimes, just for the sake of entertainment, they cause troubles for their peers. “I think that everyone is aware of the consequences of violence on the Internet, but that they neglect them at first and realise how dangerous they are only from a personal experience. Only then do we realise what we do to others,” said one of the debate participants, adding that it is necessary to raise awareness on consequences of every action.
During the debate, three films on specific cases of digital violence were featured, and after that the pupils compared what they saw with the experience from their respective schools and proposed solutions and prevention measures. As in other forms of violence, it is important to reduce the number of passive bystanders, as the more violence is visible, the easier it is to stand up against it.
The debate was organised at the Telenor Expo center and live streamed at http://www.livestream.com/sherujosmehlajkujljubavhejtujhejt, where more than 100 pupils across Serbia commented and asked questions.
The “Stop Digital Violence” project team will use pupils’ comments and suggestions to create further educational programs for pupils, teachers and parents, primarily those engaged in the “School without Violence” program.