Cyberbullying is a sharply expanding phenomenon that has not yet defined univocally. The European Commission in 2009 defined it as “repeated verbal or psychological harassment carried out by an individual or a group against others through online services and mobile phones”.

Cyberbullying, or more aptly “digital abuse”, has the following elements:

·         Use of electronic or digital means;

·         Intention to cause harm;

·         A sense of anonymity;

·         Lack of accountability;

·         Publicity;

Cyberbullying generally occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may be more correct to discuss it under cyber-harassment or cyberstalking, a crime that in both cases can have severe legal repercussions.

As a consequence of the absence of a generally agreed upon common definition of what cyberbullying is, makes the collection and interpretation of the statistical data rather difficult.

Despite this, it is important to highlight that according to numerous studies carried out on children between the age of 9-16 more than half of them were subject to cyberbullying at least once. Around 6-12% (with an increasing trend) of them experienced it regularly.

In the EU, the phenomenon seems to be concentrated in the North East European member states, where children have the highest risk of being subject to cyberbullying. In a 2017 study it was measured that the Italian statistics on cyberbullying are round 8%.

On an international level there are no specific standards addressing cyberbullying.

An important international convention, namely art. 19 of the UN Convention of the Rights of a Child (UNCRC) on the protection from all forms of violence is applicable to cases of online bullying as well.

In 2017 Italy passed a landmark law in the fight against cyberbullying by implementing Law no. 71/2017 defining it as “whatever form of psychological pressure, aggression, harassment, blackmail, injury, insult, denigration, defamation, identity theft, alteration, illicit acquisition, manipulation, unlawful processing of personal data of minors and/or dissemination made through electronic means … whose intentional and predominant purpose is to isolate a minor or a group of minors by putting into effect a serious abuse, a malicious attack or a widespread and organized ridicule.”

It also provided an essential tool for victims by imposing a 48-hour timeframe following a complaint within which the data controller, the website owner or the social media provider must remove, block or take down any harmful content.

Despite steps having been made towards fighting cyberbullying, the best protection still remains prevention: Educating minors to pay attention to what they publish, to keep their passwords secret, not to expose themselves to potentially damaging behaviour as well as to teach them how to handle such situations without feeding this dramatic and vicious cycle.

® Euroleges