Forum on virtual violence among children and youth

The IKA Catholic Press Agency provides a comprehensive report on the “Common Vision” Forum about virtual violence among children and youth held on March 21st, 2018 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Institute in Zagreb. Among the speakers was the Director of Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb, prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD:

“The second in this year’s forum lectures “Common views” took place in the hall of the “Vijenac” Archdiocesan Pastoral Institute in Zagreb on 21st March 2018, at 7:30 PM. With actual theme “Virtual violence among children and youth” lecture are gathered interested religion teachers and professors from the Catholic Theological Faculty in Zagreb. Moderator and organizer, prof. Valentina Blaženka Mandarić, PhD has introduced the theme by presenting guests speakers and announcing several problematic points.

Speakers had the opportunity to briefly present in few minutes their own perspective on the virtual violence among children and youth, which they did, creating space for further discussion on specific issues that the topic opened.

Prof. dr. sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, discussed the topic according to her concrete practical experiences from practice as a director of the Child and Youth Protection Centar of Zagreb. She pointed out that anyone can become a victim of virtual violence, but are the most risky group the children aged 15-16 years, and the consequences of exposure to this type of violence are difficult due to the anonymity of the victim’s longer exposure to violence. An additional aggravating circumstance that in the virtual world, about 35% of victims do not know who the perpetrator is, which increases feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Children, especially on social networks such as Facebook may be exposed to offensive messages, spreading lies and encouraging ugly talk about them, and as a special problem, professor Buljan Flander emphasized the term bullycide, wondering herself and all those present on the real need that young children use cell phones and screens in general.

Assoc. prof. Danijel Labac, PhD, from the Croatian Studies at the University of Zagreb also presented his specific work and the issues he faces. He emphasis the importance of media literacy for children and parents, but also for teachers who work day-to-day with children and young people. The problem is, as detected by prof. Labaš, that children and young people on the Internet encounter with inadequate content for their age, as can be seen in increasingly widespread of virtual violence. The solution is again encountered in adults – through educated parents and teachers who will support children and young people and who will guide them in safe ways of using the Internet, which will be media educated and which children will be supervised in their online activities.

The concepts of violence generally touched in opening speech by Prof. Jerko Valkovic, PhD. He pointed out that the word of complex reality that is nowadays changed by its definition with the introduction of new communication media, and therefore the possibilities that it opens up new ways of violence against others. Although violence is an anthropological constant, which occurs in all cultures and all development stages of humanity, only peer violence has emerged from the beginning of this century. The media themselves, he says, can thus become the means of violence in the way of social manipulation, and the media themselves often come for violent content, because violence, Valkovic points out, easily develops narrative and draws attention, thereby increasing the profitability of a certain media (eg movie). Violence is known in some church events (through lent and devotion of the crossroads, in the resumes of many saints …) and is certainly recognizable in culture, but its contemporary media open up an entirely new meaning, with the inevitable problem of switching from the virtual world to real life and vice versa , which especially creates difficulties for children. The next issue is the personalization of modern media, which has been customized to mobile phones and similar gadgets have become adapted to the personal use of unlimited extent, making the person available to everyone 24 hours a day.

Following the presentation of the first thoughts and emphases, in discussing the moderator asked several specific questions of particular concern to the correlation of virtual violence and school education.

In this context, professor Buljan Flander emphasized anonymity in the virtual world, which reduces empathy of perpetrator towards the victim. Namely, the bully on the screen does not see how much pain cause to another person and does not stop in his violent act. Children who do violence most often do so in a playful ” teasing”, which is later getting out of control by the lack of physical contact that would triggered the empathy of the bully towards the victim, and the additional reason that the children are not taught either at home, from their parents.

With her agrees prof. Labas, who points out that communication is being taught in the family, believes that people acquire emotional literacy today. Children, Labaš believes, are just imitating adults who are today more than ever coarser in mutual communication. He also points out that children in media and video games do not want the violence they are often served, but actually strive for dynamics – which is a big difference. Professor Buljan Flander therefore points out that it is very important for adults to respond when recognizing in child some kind of aggressive behavior toward others. It also activates the importance of educated teachers who will not be afraid to respond to the purpose of stopping violence among children. Otherwise, seriously points out, we become accomplices in the abuse of the child, which prof. Labaš extends her opinion that the professions of teachers are underestimated today and it is indispensable to restore its reputation in today’s culture, where teachers are actually afraid of parents and children. “

Text and Photos: IKA

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