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“Prevention, research and support: the 3 pillars against cyberbullying”

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“Prevention, research and support: the 3 pillars against cyberbullying”

“Words hurt more than blows. What happened to me must never happen to anyone again”: this is the testament that the 14 year old Carolina Picchio he left to his father and beyond. It was 2013 when the girl decided to take her own life: “Carolina is an intelligent, altruistic, sporty and dreamy girl, but that night the fragility of a teenager takes over and she takes her own life – says her father Paolo Picchio, now known as Papa Picchio, on the website of the foundation dedicated to her -. The humiliation of seeing oneself in a video of her while, unconscious, her peers played with her body, miming sexual acts, was too great. Hate is anything but virtual, like pain and suffering. It’s too painful to read all those insults posted on social media that relaunch those same terrible images. Yet at the center of the insults, thousands of comments from people she didn’t even know, was her. Just her, who didn’t even remember what had happened during that party a couple of months earlier.”

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After a period of enormous pain Dad Picchio decides to make his daughter’s request his mantra and establishes, with the pedagogist Ivano Zoppi, the foundation which has been working to create attention and sensitivity on these issues for more than 10 years. Today The first law in Europe on cyberbullying is dedicated to Carolina, approved unanimously on May 17, 2017.

“Our action is based on three pillars fundamentals: prevention, research and support. Prevention involves awareness-raising and training activities aimed at young people, school workers and parents, in order to promote conscious and responsible behavior in the use of technology. The research is aimed at studying and monitoring new digital phenomena, to keep our understanding of the constantly evolving digital context up to date. Finally, the support offers free direct assistance to young people in difficulty, through an interdisciplinary team of experts ready to intervene in case of emergency or online deviance”, explains Zoppi.

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How do you reach people, kids?

Mainly through schools. Every year we meet around 90,000 kids and unfortunately if we reach 15,000 parents we celebrate. There is a lack of awareness of the educational role of parents on this issue. Just think that the most popular gift for first communion is the smartphone: some reflection is needed. So, to reach as many families as possible we have partnered with the main paediatrician’s associations to have them take stock of the topic of digital: families may not come to our meetings in schools but they have to go to the pediatrician.

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What order of schools do you operate in?

First from middle school, now also elementary school and we are starting to involve families even from childhood. We have various projects and when we meet children and teenagers we always try to involve them with an exchange activity. Not frontal lessons but dialogue, play. We often, for example, use Lego, in partnership with the Lego Foundation. And usually at the end of every meeting we leave with a question: have you ever thought about how you would feel if this happened to you? It is essential to put yourself in other people’s shoes to understand.

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How does your rescue team work? Can anyone contact him?

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the Re.Te. project – Rescue Team is our “rescue team” dedicated to providing immediate support to young people in emergency situations related to cyberbullying or other forms of online deviance. The team is made up of experts in various sectors, such as pedagogists and psychologists, ready to intervene with a multidisciplinary approach to tackle the most complex challenges. We work closely with schools, law enforcement and the healthcare system to ensure a timely and appropriate response to every situation. It is free and aimed at everyone: schools, families, children. The team attests to over 250 continuous interventions to support students and families throughout the national territory.

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Do kids talk about these topics?

They need it very much, if there is anyone who listens to them they speak. The cultural distance between parents and children has accentuated the problems, creating a fragility in children also linked to the contents conveyed through digital devices. Families do not understand that there is no distinction between real and virtual life. Everything that happens online has a direct impact on the real lives of young people, influencing their well-being and relationships.

So how do you address parents?

In our activity, we try to communicate the profound meaning of words and the importance of rules. Young generations are no longer able to connect with their emotions, which they often confuse with instincts and drives, fueling confusion, loneliness and malaise. These are the prerequisites for aggressive, violent and silenced behaviors that project anxiety and paranoia onto the education planet. This is confirmed by the survey carried out on a sample of 600 young people that we carried out with our cooperative Pepita onlus. Over 60% of children (11-17 years old) regret the lockdown period. A shocking fact, even more so considering that around 75% of the young people interviewed revealed that they often feel anxious. In fact, 55% of the sample denounces the lack of adults capable of truly taking care of them. 47% would not know who to contact in case of urgency or need. Are we sure that the responsibilities belong only to our children? Or is it the adult world that has broken that chain of shared values ​​and rules that binds the succession of generations?

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