Nowadays, with the development of technology and the digital revolution, the use of the Internet begins at an early age. According to the data available to the State Statistical Office on Internet use in North Macedonia, in the first quarter of 2018, 79.3% of households had Internet access from home, and the Internet is mostly used by young people aged 15 to 24 years (91.8%). According to an analysis made by the Association for E-Commerce in Macedonia, the Internet is mostly used for social networks (84%), i.e. for creating user profiles, posting statuses and comments on popular social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others, ranking the country fourth in social media usage, behind Iceland (91%), Malta (87%), Norway (84%) and Hungary (84%).
This widespread use of the Internet, in addition to benefits, hides and brings several potential dangers that need to be addressed in a timely and appropriate manner to avoid unpleasant experiences during Internet surfing, especially among students and young people. Furthermore, research at the European Union level shows that 1 in 3 internet users is a child, and as many as half of children between the ages of 11-16 face one of the most common online risks such as cyber bullying, cyber predators, scams, software viruses, phishing, etc. On the other hand, the same research shows that more than half of the respondents do not know how to deal with the dangers of the Internet.
The phenomenon of cyber bullying is present among children and young people in the world, but also our country. You will see the practices of insulting, labeling, use of vulgar words, harassment and using hate speech in each class. Then, some photos are taken, published, and shared without the permission of the person, and they can be from a classroom, gym, vacation, or a party.
Cyber bullying combined with sexual harassment of minors was also present in the case ‘Public Room’ (Javna soba) where we saw it on an extreme scale. The consequences for each victim are enormous and deeply affect the child’s personality, identity, self-image, and mental health. These experiences form the child and that is why it is important to recognize this phenomenon and to develop mechanisms for prevention.
All of this indicates that children and youth, as well as parents, teachers, and citizens, have limited knowledge of the use of modern Internet technology.
The education system urgently needs to educate children and young people about the safe use of social networks and the Internet.
The experiences of distance learning during the pandemic are largely devastating. Students show decreased concentration, motivation, and apathy. There is a decline in academic achievement, too. In terms of socialization, there are more and more students who have problems with establishing friendship relations at school and/or inclusion in school life. This indicates that in addition to the indisputable benefits that the Internet and social networks have, their unlimited usage causes problems at the same time.
Ana Poprizova is a school psychologist at a secondary school in Skopje.
Participate in a large nationwide youth research to assess the state of cyberbullying among young people and its connection to the quality of life and mental health of youth! Complete the questionnaire below honestly and let’s raise awareness of this phenomenon in our society together.
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