Isaac Elstad Røssnes (20 years old)
1st Deputy Chief of Press – Save the Children Youth
And we have to take both of us equally seriously.
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Cleanliness is a constant threat to children’s right to a safe digital education, good mental health, freedom of expression, and to be protected from harmful content.
This is something that children and young people think for themselves, and that is demonstrated in the recent report “Grow online” by Press – Save the Children Youth. This is certainly alarming. The report draws on the own experiences of children and young people with cyberbullying and focuses on their own proposals for measures to combat it.
Young people refuse, why?
According to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Netness among children and young people is a widespread problem and can lead to young people refusing to participate in public debate.
The same says the press report. Several of the young informants find it tiring to engage in public debate because the fear of being exposed to cyberbullying is too terrifying. One of the young people says that he has transferred the debate to forums and private accounts because he “consumes too much.”
Discrimination, threats, racism, ignorance, incapacitation, sexism, transphobia, government techniques and dark jokes. These were words that were repeated among our informants aged 13 to 26 when asked what they associated with netness.
It’s nine too many words.
These descriptions give us a clear picture of what is really happening online, and it is clear that minorities are more vulnerable.
A democratic problem
It is a democratic problem that so many young people do not want to participate in public debate. Democracy is losing important votes due to an unhealthy climate of debate. It is a culture of digital bullying that is experienced as exhausting and mentally draining that one simply does not have the strength to express oneself.
How have we let it go so far?
An unclear definition of neatness has gotten in the way of good solutions to the problem. “My freedom of expression stops where your human rights begin,” said one of the young people during the group interviews we conducted.
Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a democracy, but no one has the right to discriminate, hate and intimidate. When cyberbullying scares children and youth into not speaking at a young age, it threatens future community engagement. Children and young people should be allowed to be whoever they want to be online, without being exposed to harmful content.
No more separation
All children and young people have the right to a safe education, also online. We can no longer distinguish between a digital and a physical everyday life, and we must take both equally seriously. Children know best what it is to be a child today, so listen to our recommendations and take us seriously.
We must ensure greater competence over neatness and integrate it into the curriculum. It is time for a broader and more inclusive definition of illegal speech. At the same time, we need to spend more money on research on the subject.
Last but not least, we must hold both platforms and authorities accountable. Children have the right to be safe. Also online.
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