More than one in ten students is affected by bullying. To fight against this scourge which spreads on social networks, the deputy Erwan Balanant proposes 120 measures in a report submitted to the Ministers of Education and Justice.
Train parents overwhelmed by social networks, educate students, toughen penalties … In a parliamentary report of more than 180 pages, submitted to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Education, the deputy Modem Erwan Balanant outlines 120 proposals for “Understand and fight bullying at school”. This scourge affects more than one in ten students during their schooling and is now hidden behind the screens. Interview with the parliamentarian.
Every year, 700,000 children are victims of bullying at school. What are these students going through?
It’s very protean. Intimidation, insults, mockery, spreading rumors, beatings… These students can suffer physical, verbal or psychological violence. Children can be confronted with it from kindergarten and especially in college. School bullying covers all the aggressive behaviors that one or more students or school staff inflicts on a student repeatedly over a certain period.
This school bullying can also be fueled by school personnel?
Yes it is extremely rare but it does happen. We have seen this phenomenon in several recent and particularly serious cases of bullying at school, such as that of little Evaëlle, considered the scapegoat for one of her teachers. In my report, I therefore propose that administrative sanctions be taken more easily against officials who have committed such acts, even in the absence of a criminal conviction.
School bullying also extends well beyond the walls of the school …
It also takes place on the course of the school and especially at home, by interposed screens. The development of digital tools and the proliferation of social networks have greatly increased the harmful nature of bullying at school. Cyberbullying explodes, with a terrible effect on the victim, who has no respite. When a bullied child comes home, they can still receive insults or teasing on social media, like TikTok or Snapchat. However, children are equipped with a cell phone earlier and earlier, often as soon as they enter sixth grade. A child who owns a laptop can therefore potentially be attacked or attack himself. The cell phone is a formidable tool, but it is also an extremely dangerous weapon of psychological pressure.
What form does this cyberbullying take?
It is very varied. Young people will gang up against another, send him hundreds of messages or spread a demeaning image of him, which will be shared by the whole class, the whole school. The ease of sharing content allows young people to actively participate in online aggression. Girls are particularly victims, with false rumors and damage to their reputation. There are also all the issues of “revenge porn”, of which young girls are particularly victims. Example: a young 13-year-old couple messages each other with naked photos, and when they break up, one sends an intimate photo of the other to a whole group on WhatsApp instant messaging. It is devastating for the victim.
The ban on using the laptop at school and college since 2018 has not helped to limit the problem?
This is a good measure since, during the day, students cannot film themselves, for example, which frequently happens in cases of bullying, to humiliate another student. That doesn’t mean they can’t do it anymore, but it limits the possibilities. Children must also learn, from an early age and throughout their schooling, to use digital tools, with more prevention on these issues. An educated child will be better able to react and alert when he witnesses bullying on social networks. In a playground, there are children able to see bullying situations that can prevent an adult. The same goes for cyberstalking. Parents must also be trained in social networks, with a welcome booklet distributed devoted to good practices in digital tools. Finally, we must also develop training in digital uses for the entire teaching staff.
It seems impossible to regulate a space that belongs to young people …
Better training children, parents and school staff in these tools is not enough. We must also encourage each social network to have a blocking and reporting functionality, such as exists on Twitter or Instagram. I also propose a governance shared between the Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), the ministries of National Education, Justice, the Interior and Health to create a public interest group ( GIP) which would be the armed wing of public policies around bullying and which would define objectives. There could be a whole job of content creation with platforms to do pedagogy with influencers or prevention spots on YouTube.
Apart from prevention, do you recommend toughening the penalties provided for?
We must always prioritize dialogue and pedagogy. There are good methods, such as the “shared concern” method for peacefully resolving conflicts. But, in the most serious cases, it is undoubtedly necessary more severe penalties, because there is no penal qualification dedicated to school bullying today. I therefore propose to create a specific offense of school harassment, on the model of the offense of harassment at work, punishable by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros. There would thus be recognition by society of the damage suffered.