Cyberbullying is spreading all over the world. Since the use of technology is accessible to everyone, the dangers of cyber-bullying as well are close to everyone. Falling a victim of cyber-bullying is as easy as logging online to check your social media accounts. Thus, any person can be a victim of cyberbullying. Examine Cyberbullying in Belgium Now!

Different approaches have been taken regarding this issue. Some parents simply tell their kids to shake it off, other parents take it to the school and start addressing the problem from there and some kids who are victims refuse to report their cases to their parents or their teachers for fear of losing their phone or internet privileges.

As far as countries are concerned, most countries have not yet addressed cyber-bullying appropriately enough. But with the rise in the number of victims and the extreme measures they take (which range from skipping school to suicide), most countries are put under public pressure to start addressing cyber-bullying using the appropriate legal tools.

Extensive research has taken place in various countries to try and combat this spreading danger.

When it comes to Cyber Bullying in Belgium, A European Commission Survey conducted in November 2009 shows that 34.3% of Belgian teenagers have been bullied via the internet or mobile phone.

Since the three Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) have the same judicial systems, a study was carried out to help form a proper legal approach to the issue.

Focusing on Cyberbullying in Belgium, the numbers are as follows:

In 2007, 67% of the Belgian households possessed one or more computers, and 60% had an Internet connection (FOD Economie, 2007). In households with children, these figures were 2 higher, respectively 85 and 78 %. According to the Teens and ICT: Risks and Opportunities TIRO-Project (Walrave, Lenaerts, & De Moor, 2008), a survey among 1318 secondary school students in both the Flemish- and the French-speaking communities, 96,3% of the young people used the internet. The mean time spent on the Internet was 2 hours per day.

The main motives to use the Internet were social contacts (49,8%), relaxation (31,0%) and information (19,2%).

Given the prominent place of the Internet in youngsters’ social life, it was not surprising that 9 in 10 indicated that they chatted online. They mostly did this in closed chat rooms, such as the ones provided by instant messenger programs. Almost two out of ten youngsters had their own website. Even more, teenagers had their own blog (40,7 %) or a profile on a social network site (45,5 %). The number of mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants was 89 in 2006 (Eurostat, 2006). Mobile phone possession was also high among Belgian teenagers (96%).

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As the numbers clearly indicate, most of the Belgian youngsters are online and use the internet daily for 2 hours with nearly half of them using it in order to socially connect with people i.e. on social media websites.

Protection of youngsters online became part of the Belgian government’s concerns. Campaigns for raising awareness were set as well as funds to support research work on the subject.

Legally, Cyberbullying in Belgium is addressed under civil and/or criminal law.

However, due to the realization that cyber-bullying is a threatening crime it is, the Belgian government is focusing on preventing the act of bullying from happening in the first place without skipping out on making the act of bullying punishable by law.

The Flemish government in Belgium was rather quick to put cyber-bullying on the (research and policy) agenda. Based on the growing evidence, the Flemish Minister of Education declared to give special attention to raising the awareness of cyber-bullying. This resulted in the development of an information brochure for schools (governors, teachers and ICT coordinators) about online safety “Veilig Online, Tips voor veilig ICT-gebruik op school” that was accompanied by a CD-ROM with course material (for instance with regard to cyber-bullying; 8 Octobre 2007). On the federal level, the Belgian Internet Observatory (an initiative of the Federal Administration Economics), created a report with status questions of the current scientific literature with regard to cyber-bullying (Walrave, Demoulin, Heirman, & van de Perre, 2009).

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New in this report was the inclusion of a chapter devoted to the legal consequences of cyber-bullying behaviour (for youngsters and their parents) in Belgium. The Belgian Internet Observatory also placed information about cyber-bullying (aimed at teachers, pupils and parents) online and formulated extensive policy guidelines. The Belgian node of Ins@fe – a European network of awareness centres – created a local version of the “Family e-safety kit” (i.e.“Veilig Internet Gezinspakket”). This guideline is meant for parents and families with children up to 12 years of age. One of the chapters focuses on cyber-bullying. The guideline is accompanied by a small workbook that parents and children can use.

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