The Mayor-Net association has been working on a project to detect and prevent bullying and cyber-bullying in schools for 5 years…
“These days, some of us grandparents spend more time with our grandchildren than their own parents, who arrive from work late and tired, which means we are more alert and vigilant to situations of isolation, victimization or abuse to which children are unfortunately exposed to,” explains Ángel Corbalán, who is convinced that the issue of bullying is not getting the attention it deserves.
Corbalán is the president of Mayor-Net, an association that was created with the aim of ending digital illiteracy and bridging the technological deficit suffered by those of a “certain age” in the Internet era.
One of these grandmothers, thanks to this project, had learned to use computers and navigate social networks, who sounded the alarm about the state of “vulnerability” in which she saw her grandchildren and their friends in.
“From then on, we realised that children had no support, and that we, the grandparents, could do our bit in this fight … that something had to be done, we had no time to waste.”
The campaign kicked off with an informative presentation aimed at parents of students who attend Huerta de la Cruz school in Algeciras and another one directed at the children themselves. “We then realised that the children were much more relaxed and less defensive with us than if they had received a talk from a teacher or a policeman.”
Last year, 5 years and a lot of hard work later, Mayor-Net managed to establish a pioneering initiative in the province, with the involvement of the CEIP Inmaculada school in La Linea: called the ‘Ciberayudante’ (Cyberhelper) which deals with the training of 6th grade primary students as volunteers.
A study into the activities of over 6,000 schoolchildren from more than 50 schools in the Campo de Gibraltar found that bullying begins at the age of 7, which was corroborated during the academic year 2018-19 .
Despite bullying occuring at such an early age, 88% of students who attended the talks were unaware of the true meaning of this word, how it presents itself and what its consequences are.
“In addition, the vast majority (70%) thought bullying to be a “normal” thing that has always existed, and 75% admitted to ignoring bullying or cyberbullying doesn’t directly involve them.”
As for cyberbullying (which is found to be even more harmful to the victim than traditional bullying, because “it never ends, it extends beyond the classroom and the school day, it is shielded in anonymity and its impact is infinitely greater, since the mockery, insult or threat go viral”), children’s easy access to electronic devices and the lack of parental control are the determining factors.
Mayor-Net provides revealing data: 80% of minors claim to have used their mother’s mobile phone to communicate through WhatsApp with other minors at very early ages (5, 6 years old), and 65% recognize that, from the age of 8, they interact with mobile devices regularly and communicate with third parties, some unknown. “What they want is a lot of followers, even if they don’t know who is behind that profile or the dangers they are exposing themselves to.”
Cyberbullying currently begins at the age of 8, and, according to the association, “numerous videogames” contribute greatly to it. According to Mayor-Net, these have become an increasing danger in recent months.
“These unscrupulous multinationals have invested large sums of money in improving scripts, graphics and screens, and have turned videogames into interactive media with live chat which are addictive.” 41.7% of the minors observed in this study game for 2 or more hours each day. Their recommendation is to involve family and teachers “to prevent a hobby from becoming an addition.”
Mayor-Net will continue to work at this during this academic year, although Ángel Corbalán regrets that many families do not attend the talks and prefer to remain ignorant to an increasingly growing problem.
“Unfortunately, this happens in the same percentage in any locality: the talks are attended by 10% of parents; precisely those who have no problems of this kind with their children… With this attitude, families become part of the problem and not the solution”.