cyberbullying

More than one in ten 11-16 year-olds in the EU say they have been bullied online. A majority of those affected by bullying (55%) said that it caused them to become depressed, and more than one in three said they self-harmed – and even considered suicide – as a result.

Bullying has always existed in one form or another, but anonymous bullying online is becoming increasingly common. It’s not just celebrities experiencing harassing messages and the threat of having their private photos and details published.

As part of our Debating Europe Schools series, we’ve been taking questions from students from across Europe to policy-makers and experts for them to answer. For today’s debate, we had two questions sent in from students from the Lycée Montchapet in Dijon, France.

Curious to know more about the problem of cyberbullying in Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures about online bullying and European young people in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

05---cyberbullying

The first student question was very straightforward: Should cyber bullying be considered a criminal offence and punished as such?

To get a reaction, we took this question to Seán Kelly, an Irish Fine Gael MEP who sits with the centre-right European People’s Party in the European Parliament. How would he respond?

kellyI think it is certainly a major offence, and if it is not dealt with sufficiently strongly then there is a danger the perpetrators will continue their bullying. I think that if the punishment is strong enough then people will think twice about doing something. Whereas if there is no penalty at all, or a very weak penalty, then people won’t stop to think.

Cyberbullying is something that has obviously developed massively over recent times, particularly because of the growth of social media, and it is doing huge damage, especially to young people. It has lead to people suffering severe depression and in some cases even suicide. That certainly is strong enough a reason for me to say that extreme forms of cyberbullying, and particularly sustained and continuous cyberbullying over a period of time, should be criminalised and a penalty should be laid down for it.

We also spoke to Dan Raisbeck, co-founder of the Cybersmile Foundation, an international charity that provides support to the victims of cyberbullying. He argued that such an approach may be in danger of criminalising children who have behavioral problems, and that bullies can often themselves be the victims of abuse at home or elsewhere.

The second question asked what happens when it is children (and potentially young children) carrying out the bullying. Rather than criminal sanctions, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to for parents to ban their children from using the internet?

kellyWell, that is obviously a point worth considering. The age of the person must be taken into consideration before you would penalise them. Also, the gravity of the offence and, above all, whether it was persistent and continuous. So, yes, there could be a system whereby you would have a clear warning first, with the parents and others might talk to the individual involved, but if the bullying continued then it could ultimately result in criminal sanctions.

So, yes, sensitivity regarding age would obviously have to come into it because young people would not be as mature as young adults or older people, and secondly their life experiences wouldn’t be the same, so possibly they might not be sensitive to the damage they are doing. So, clearer education about what cyberbullying entails and why it is wrong is obviously a key way of dealing with this issue.

We put the same question to Dan Raisbeck. He agreed that this might be a better option than the threat of criminal sanctions.

Should cyberbullying be a criminal offence in the EU? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Fixer Sophie Thorne


145 comments Post a commentcomment


  1. Christopher Kwadwo Svanefalk

    All forms of harassment should be an offence. However, the spillover in this case may be a stricter policing of the Internet, which in the end might not be good for anyone. Teach kids how to deal with trolls (it’s really not that hard), rather than trying to legislate the problem away.

  2. Konstantinos Michas

    yeap, it’s another issue if someone stands for his opinion and another to blackmail (if that’s a correct definition). This has to apply on media and governments as well

  3. Dorothea Karaburjidou

    No…. I think the ‘real life bulling’ ( teachers, public officers, goverment politicians that they bulling people real face to face …etc etc ) should…..11-16 in that age they doing that anyway all the time!!! On internet at least it is safer and can be controled or watched out by family and friends etc etc Awarness is the best way to fight this issue and those that comming to them that first come across technologies …good luck everyone!! ;)

  4. Manfred Kulemann

    I don t think we need any more laws.It’s already getting complicated as it is
    More Laws=More Ministers and Politicians=More Salaries to pay.

  5. Ÿänn Hidalgō

    Don’t need to explain that only the will to destruct a person, in anyway, it’s already a crime.

  6. Akpans Intel

    Ya.As a matter of fact every form of bullying is a moral crime.Who on earth wants to be bullied?So,just as we try to fight the yet to come cyber war and terrorism,we should put CYBERBULLYING as one of those on the list.Fact remains that in the nearest future,many things we do today on our daily lives will be done on the PC.

  7. Paul X

    It’s not bullying, at worst it should be called harassment or in most cases it is just the usual bitching which has been going on for centuries. In the old days it was calling people names behind their back, the difference now is it done to a global audience from behind the safety of a computer screen

    Stop demeaning those who are really being bullied, to bully someone you need to have some power over them, either be stronger or be their employer, on the internet, as long as you can type you can be strong as those doing the bullying

  8. Vinko Rajic

    Some people love is :
    The Tyrannical Sadist

    The tyrannical sadist and the malevolent antisocial are perhaps the most frightening
    and cruel of the personality disorder subtypes. Some are physically assaultive, whereas
    others overwhelm their victims by unrelenting criticism, forceful anger, and vulgar and
    bitter tirades. Tyrannical sadists seem to relish the act of menacing and brutalizing oth-
    ers in the most unmerciful and inhumane ways. More than any other personality, they
    derive a deep satisfaction from creating suffering, observing its effects, and reflecting
    on their actions. Violence may be employed intentionally to inspire terror and intimi-
    dation. Resistance only seems to stimulate them more. Often calculating and cool,
    tyrannical sadists are selective in their choice of victims, identifying scapegoats who
    are easily intimidated and unlikely to react with violence in return. Frequently, their
    goal is not only to inflict terror but also to impress the audience with their total, unre-
    strained power. Most intentionally dramatize their surly behavior. Although these indi-
    viduals are in many respects the purest form of the psychopathic sadist, they also
    exhibit characteristics of the negativistic or paranoid personalities.

  9. Diogo Guerreiro [Portugal]

    An offense it’s always an offense. I doesn’t matter if committed in the street, by mail or by computer. But, create a criminal charge over this is to extreme, because many people will have criminal registration before their 18 years old. Nevertheless we can create something different. Something like a penalty but not criminal, just an administrative penalty. For example, I agree with social service. It’s ok. If an offense can lead to a criminal offense in court, no, I absolutely disagree with that.
    We are on 21 century, I know, better than ever, that verbal abuse, can cause trauma in people, especially over young people. Isn’t just words. Words can hurt as much as physical damages, although, where the risk over physical integrity doesn’t exists. It’s different in just this aspect, not in all other aspects.

  10. Eugenia Serban

    Nooooo. There s a lame reason for the authorities to watch the internet. No BIG BROTHER law. Let people be free !

  11. Aleksandros Ho Megas

    Of course NOT, You fascist control freaks!!!
    Internet is the last bastion of FREEDOM, and we should (and will) fight to keep it as free as possible!

  12. Mathew Sandoval

    Free to do what? Of course, children should be protected as well as all citizens, from invasive protocols.

  13. João Martins

    With a legal act there should also be an educational action. Kids have make contact with social media really early and they are not taught how to protect themselvs and, worse, the parents know even less than their own children. There is a need to educate children, and also parents, about cyberbullying.

  14. catherine benning

    What a ridiculous nonsense this question is. There is no such thing as cyber bullying. If an idiot stays on line to read the belittling thoughts of another person they are colluding in their own distress. Give as good as you get, ignore, or, get off line and go to another site. Sorted.

    I suppose if you want to say there ‘is’ cyber bullying you could include Elton John and his Mr Furnish in being cyber bullies by trying to cause the downfall of the business of Dolce and Gabbana and using the internet to do it. The first two being unable to handle the second pair having minds of their own on four parent babies being bought like slaves by an odd couple of men in their old age.

    Apparently, D&G think these babies are chemical and unnatural, and because of their voiced thoughts, along with millions of others, they want the public to boycott their produce. Talk about loving freedom of speech for the self, whilst making moves to deny it to others.

    Read all about it…. Now that’s calling to put someone out of business by vexatious slander, the same way as the forcing of another company of cake makers, who refuse to celebrate gay marriage is defenitely cyber bullying. Anyone ready to put John and Furnish in the can for it? Along with those demanding others stay away from their human right of free speech and right of association, by openly looking for support to ruin them through the internet?

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/children-raised-by-gay-couples-write-letter-supporting-dolce-gabbana-amidst

    Here is the baker who won’t bake a gay marriage celebration cake being taken to court by the prospective customer. As he feels the baker must bow to his way of thinking. Whether the baker is Chrisitna or not has nothing to do with it. It is the human right of us all to adhere to our freedoms of speech and thought.

    http://news.sky.com/story/1367948/bakery-faces-legal-action-over-gay-rights-cake

    The internet is being used by these tyrants to bully perpetraters of angst out of a way to make a living. And what gets my goat is, they want to threaten and frighten people against having an alternative view to their own, simply because they fear it will be the’ majority’ of the population who rise up against them once questioned on it.

  15. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    yes more on the network and eliminate cyberbullying nay of the thighs you do in life today will be done on the PC

  16. ancylostomiasis

    No it would be an excuse for further violation of free speech. There should be a clear line between verbal and actually practice of all kinds of conducts.

  17. Dionìs Koçi

    Yes for a good part of the cases. Cyber Bullying is a too broad term for being answered with YES/NO, but it contains many cases which should take a YES.

  18. Ferenc Lázár

    This issue is not so simple though- anyone can switch off his internet and who would judge what us bullying or intimidation. This is very much an individual matter..

  19. Tarquin Farquhar

    No.

    What a silly question!

  20. Gina

    Yes! All kinds of bullying. We are supposed to be promoting respect and mutual understanding in this European Union. Better late than never though, and again yes, something should be done abou it.

  21. Pedro Redondeiro

    This should not even be a matter of “if”, by now the EU should have had already made it a crime punishable by law, having in mind the recent events of the last few years, that had TRAGIC consequences in the majority of cases, world wide especially in the US. But is should not only be criminalized online, it sohould be criminalized evry single type of bullying behaviour. Period! There should be a ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying behavior.

  22. Jake Simmonds

    Obviously free speech must be free, but cyberbullying is doing so much harm to people. If the government cannot impose a law against online abuse, then the support must be there for victims to cope – charities or organisations need the funding to launch and maintain constant campaigns on social networks (Tumblr being one of the primary targets, closely followed by Twitter & Facebook).

    Victims need the help they deserve.

  23. Darcy Brás da Silva

    Cyber Bullying becoming a crime is nonsense. And here is why

    1) Impossible to have decent ways of detecting this behavior and enforcing it without abuse of _regular_ citizens rights.

    2) The biggest attacking group tends to grow out of that behavior naturally as this tend to be teenagers that instead of going to that rock concert and smashing that guitar or having that car accident now ‘internet troll’ their way.

    What do we do to improve the situation ?
    1) Better education about using online systems. This will not only reduce the number of bullies but also give social skills for the victims which by the way will be useful through out their lives.

    Cyber bullying has the great advantage of being switchable. You can turn of the computer not think about it for a while.

    I would also like to mention that there are already laws for ‘stalking and identity theft’ and those should not be confused with Cyber Bullying as they grade very differently.

  24. Tgame Bond

    If they got nothing to do or study the book or play some game …then they should continue they lazy Ass bone to concentrate of some ignorance bullying. .

  25. Imane Majid

    No. Parents shouldn’t forbid them from using the Internet because that doesn’t solve the problem from its roots. Instead, the parents should enroll their kids in some activity that’ll keep them busy from being online all day long.

  26. Buj Alex

    yes … :) i’m guessing it is a matter of educating children, not legislation … and yes kids should be more restricted, people should start to loose intrest in the internet, because it is not creating value anymore !! as long as you can’t pass data around, and nothing is free … then why bother ? these days kids haven’t the slightest ideea of what a computer is …

  27. Vinko Rajic

    EU should have a big news agency similar to BBC , search engine and mail service similar to Google . All EU citizens should have EU internet ID card . It should be possible to access internet without ID but all users should understand when you are using your right identity .

  28. Ioanna Geor

    I do not think that they should ban the Internet completely, they can deactivate pages ( if they use a family filter antivirus, they can choose to block the page from appearing). Or the can take their computers for a time, for example until they apologize. But f they ban the internet altogether, these children may react bad. I read an article about a girl trying to kill her mum TWICE with poison, just because her mom took her iphone away from her. Now, we want to protect our family, not push it to kill us or harm us

  29. Tony Kunnari

    Those who haven’t yet been introduced the term ‘bully’ should be educated to cherish others. Those who already have been introduced the aforementioned term, need to unlearn it because the whole concept is beyond necessity and takes too much space in our mind which reflects to our behaviour. Afterwards they also need to learn how to cherish others.

    “Like an old software, bullying needs to be replaced by more practical and simple application. There is no need to keep the old one in your hard drive if you no longer use it.”

  30. Nando Aidos

    If a child / young adult under my care is being cyber-bullied it is my duty to protect and to help this young person defend herself from such attacks. If so, then what is the right course of action for the specific case? What is the tight course of action of us as a society? Forbidding may or may not be the solution because there is no such thing as a “generic solution” to aggression.

  31. nando

    If a child / young adult under my care is being cyber-bullied it is my duty to protect her and to help this young person defend herself from such attacks. If so, then
    – what is the right course of action for the specific case? Each case is a case.
    – what is the tight course of action for us as a society? Penalize the perpetrators. Cyber-bullying is a serious offense and should be subject to punishment!
    Forbidding access to the internet may or may not be the solution because there is no such thing as a “generic solution” to aggression. But forbidding the victim leaves the criminal at large doing more of the same!

  32. Dobromir Panchev

    EU can have its own social network managed by the European Commission with better child protection. Social networks today have many issues, they are run by private companies outside EU, private data leak to advertisers and we have no control over them. If the network is designed, implemented and managed in EU without profit in mind, it can make the communication between EU citizens better and prevent bullying by using enhanced algorithms. If all participants in that social network are reliably identified, any criminal behaviour over the network will be prosecuted.

  33. Ed Cocks

    Generally, children should be restricted on the Internet until age 16 (depending on their parents’ judgement of their maturity) with allowances for school research, reading and guided exploration. If they abuse the privilege then they should be disciplined.

  34. Eugenia Serban

    Parents can do nothing about the internet. Lets not fool ourselves.
    They can only teach children human values…like always.

  35. Jim Young

    When we were kids there was no internet, there were no computers, the only bullying occasionally was in the playground and if the bully was caught it was corporal punishment and or the slipper. Those were the good old days when we made model boats, model planes, played with plastercine, made kites, got out into the fresh air; went into the woods, went fishing, read books, those things with paper pages and covers, played football, cricket, hockey, basket ball and much more, we were a poor society; no on had anything, everyone worked just to pay the rent and most people were decent and honest…..so here we are discussing online bullying; my advice is simple….Switch it OFF, we used to sing, Sticks and stones may break my bones but words never hurt me.

  36. Kayleigh

    Not at all. Silly question to be honest.

  37. Gyanu

    it is clearly define for old concept people .

  38. Tony Kunnari

    Bullying is a product of discrimination given space through ignorance, negligence and desperation. Disarm people of discrimination and you won’t see bullying after awhile.

  39. Bita Nahal Peace

    Absolutely!!! How could you even contemplate this and ask public opinions!! Any bullies should be criminalised, whether they come from family members or friends or strangers!! START FROM UK!!!

  40. Carlos Em Lisboa

    Sorry , its kind of a stupid question ! Of course , Mobbing is in some country allready punished , and i guess Bullying is to put in the same category . So , it makes all sense to punish it by criminal & civil law ! And if the harresment would lead to the death of a person , i even would say that ” bullies ” did it with intent to destabilize a person in that way , that she killed her self and it would be indirect murder ( new law ) !

  41. Toni Muñiz

    Yes. There should be no difference between real life and online situations. And more should be done against bullying overall. I don’t believe it is taken as serious as it should. I know in my childs school they blow it off once too many times as “they are just children”.

  42. Harris Manteniotes

    ofcourse!! there is no doubt, cyber bullying also has an effect in some people, and these people must be protected at all costs

  43. Ciobîcă Ovidiu

    It definetely should, and the legal punishment must me severe enough to discourage such a sick behaviour! My answer to all the bullshits I met online was to bully them much harder, so they would be defeated with their own weapons :)

  44. Rui Duarte

    Internet is just another extension of man. Every criminal behavior must be treated as such, whether ON or OFF the internet.

  45. nando

    ANY type of bullying should be a criminal offense!

  46. Omid Danesh Khorak

    Not criminal, but civil offence ! And at the same time as the “civil offence,” it should be elevated as an important tort.

  47. Victoria Deniran

    YES…many lives has been taken because of cyberbullying, is time to take action, it’s like a virus and getting worse every…it has to be stopped!

  48. Richard Osborne

    No, bullying is part of life. It sucks but it’s how we’re made. It teaches us to be strong and stand up for ourselves

  49. Eugenia Serban

    Nobody will be able to control the internet.
    Never. No authority or state or union.
    So , STOP TRYING TO MAKE LAWS FOR THE INTERNET BECAUSE NOONE WILL EVER CONTROL THIS SPACE.
    IT S MONEY SPENT IN VANE.

  50. Tuija Mustonen

    Yes of course. And we should arrange some great place, cyber-police, from where to get advice and support, if one notices bullying. Bullying is wrong, and we must not tolerate it, no matter how strong individuals. We must take care of the not-so strong people also, you never know when you will be the weakest one.

  51. Banu Demirtas

    Yes! Each form of it, is experienced by each person in a different subjective way..its very hard to set degrees on it.

  52. Dogaru Adrian

    lol…cyberbully…Jesus folks..just ignore them…or close the bloody laptop…is not like someone is going to punch you through the screen

  53. Karishma Pattni

    Yes, cyberbullying is not just a matter of people being rude to each other online. Yes you could jus ‘ignore them’… but the true fact is many people commit suicide over cyberbullying. This should be stopped! children deserve to have a future. Making cyberbullying a criminal offense would make a HUGE difference to the next generation, children will not be as afraid to stand up to bullies!

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