Author: Rita Marques

The KID_ACTIONS project aims to create a range of evidence-based innovative tools to tackle cyberbullying among young people aged 11-16. As part of the research methodology which the project is currently establishing, the partners conducted two focus groups in Belgium and Italy. In the present article, Youth for Exchange and Understanding share some preliminary outcomes from the focus group they carried out in the spring of 2021.

The problem of bullying is especially relevant in the age of the internet and social media. Young people are increasingly proficient in the use of the internet and the tools it offers, which has been made clear with the transfer of most activities, including teaching and social events, to the online sphere. The KID_ACTIONS project intends to respond to the problem of cyberbullying by raising awareness of this issue and creating pedagogical games designed to empower young people to recognise and respond to cyberbullying. In order to achieve these goals, two focus groups were organised, as part of the KID_ACTIONS research methodology. Youth for Exchange and Understanding (YEU) organised one focus group in Brussels on Thursday, 29 April 2021. This focus group was held online due to the pandemic situation and the public health restrictions in Belgium. Nonetheless, the focus group was international in character, thanks to the participation of 13 individuals, including educators and youth workers, from twelve European countries. The discussion was semi-structured and intended to provide answers that would strengthen the research and, ultimately, the outcomes of the project. Namely, the focus group was intended to draw upon the prevention and response to cyberbullying, the resources, and digital tools for preventing and responding to cyberbullying, and the programmes and approaches that could be effective in that prevention and response. The participants in the focus group recognised the pressing importance of addressing the issue of cyberbullying among young people and develop effective strategies to understand, raise awareness, prevent, and respond to this growing problem. Providing the subjectivity that is inherent to cyberbullying, focus group participants agreed on the need to come up with a definition that is agreed upon and clearly understood by young people. Further, both educators and youth workers agreed on the need to have community involvement when addressing this problem, recognising that parents, educational staff, youth workers, and young people have a specific role in the prevention and response to cyberbullying. Lastly, education was highlighted as a priority for effective prevention and response to this issue. According to the participants, it is essential to guarantee that adults and young people alike are not only knowledgeable on the topics of technology, digital tools, and the online world, but also on emotional, psychological, and social skills. In sum, from the discussion during the focus group, we were able to comprehend some of the aspects that educators and youth workers prioritise and consider essential in dealing with cyberbullying among young people. One of the aspects emphasised by the participants was precisely the essential involvement of young people at all stages of the process – from understanding cyberbullying to the development and implementation of tools to respond to it. Certainly, if there is one major takeaway from this focus group, it is young people must be adequately involved in discussions on any topic that concerns them and is relevant to them – from policies and protocols to digital tools, everything needs to be done with young people.

Image credit: William Fortunato on Pexels