top of page

UN Conference Lecture

We had the honor to participate as the keynote speakers at the 54th conference of the UN Human Rights Committee about Cyberbullying against children.

 CEO of Matzmichim, Yony Tsouna's speech in the panel

When we talk about cyberbullying, we hope to find someone to blame and also quickly treat the kid who bullies. However, most of the bullying comes from most of our children.

Every day, our children's social lives move, little by little, toward the virtual world.
To the island of children =>  an island we can only see the edges of.

Therefore, if children are going to live alone on this island,
we must teach them how to manage themselves there alone,
and how to take care of each other. Really take care of each other.

The most obvious thing to do is to only deal with the roughest aspects of social media – pedophilia, threats, distribution of intimate photos – but these are just 1% of everyday online bullying. 

Children’s lives are full of "grey area" suffering:
offensive stickers,
insulting surveys,
harmful comments

In twenty years of working with hundreds of thousands of school children, we at "Matzmichim" have had daily experiences with how these micro aggressions cause ongoing suffering. 

Education systems focus a lot on treating children who have already been victims of online bullying.
Isn’t it better to teach children to behave online in a healthy way? Education is the answer. But what kind of education?

Some believe that if we provide children with higher social and emotional abilities (SEL), there will be a dramatic drop in cyberbullying. But in our experience, bullying did not disappear when we focused on children’s SEL. It sometimes just became more sophisticated like when a kid uses SEL to organize mass shunnings, ostracizing their peers. 

Children learn how to behave through imitation –
They watch and learn how we adults argue or how we react when we are stuck in a traffic jam;
They learn when the teacher forgives;
But they don’t see their parents and teachers on social media. And when our child peeks at our WhatsApp, we tell them off to teach them about privacy.

So, if not from their parents and teachers, how are children expected to
learn the ethical "code of conduct" online? They learn mostly from other children. The result is a "children's island" with harmful norms.

One of our trainers – Adi Dror – saw on her daughter's WhatsApp that one of the girls removed a girl from a small WhatsApp group of 4 girls. When Adi asked her daughter why didn’t you object to your friend being removed, her daughter replied: "the one who opens the group has the right to remove someone. "I would have said something if it had happened on the playground, but this is WhatsApp.” 

This is an example of unique online norms and ethics that were developed by children.

In light of this problem, here are 4 experience-based  suggestions for action:

1. Dealing with the small, everyday online interactions and not just with the extreme 1%

2. Teaching children D.G.TAL literacy. For example:

  • Teach that social media is a way of communication that has special dynamics – It escalates conflicts, and causes all of us to be more blunt with each other.

  • Develop social media ethics and morals:

What should not be said in front of everyone?

What does it mean to have a dual identity or an anonymous one?

  • Teach children how social media decreases their mental well-being and self-image, and how social media can be a source of support and even save them?

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is good, but we need to start teaching SEL in social media now.

3. Understanding cyberbullying: I suggest that the esteemed audience should distinguish between 2 types of bullying:

a. Bullying that results from poor SEL – children with outbreaks, who are often unpopular. The solution here is to provide these children with skills to handle themselves. 

b. The second type is planned bullying, done by kids with high SEL. This type of bullying, such as mass shunning, is meant to achieve popularity, and it indeed achieves popularity, as Professor Faris shows in his studies. Smartphones have strengthened the “popular bullies" by giving them tools to control and mobilize others.

How can we stop cyberbullying that is meant to gain popularity? Not with top-down enforcement, but rather by changing norms, providing training to identify manipulation and rumors of hate –> in order to achieve that, we need tools, trainers, and educators.

But in the meantime, our kids meet educators who were trained mainly in academic subjects and don’t have enough relevant, practical tools.

4. We need to speed up the pace: 


Every survey shows that teachers and parents are asking for practical tools.
However, the academic and educational systems are slow and overloaded, and therefore are less equipped to deal with the increasingly rapid changes in the way children use APPS.
And this is even before children really start using Virtual Reality and AI as social tools.

Therefore, we need social media training to be given by those who regularly work directly with kids. So we can face the changing challenges practically and effectively.


In this sense, educational NGOs that train and develop within classrooms have better chances to succeed. Unfortunately, there are too few of these. This is part of the reason why teenagers' online communication right now looks like "no man's land".

Finally, a warning and hope:
As the world of social media continues to expand,
we must train ourselves, our children and our classrooms
to identify and neutralize the use of online hate tactics. Especially those done by socially-abled kids trying to achieve popularity. 

Our children need this now, and will need this more as grown-ups,
because the area where cyberbullying may be the most dangerous is in politics.

Otherwise, all of us sitting here in this hall are at risk of aging under the leadership of populist online bullies who use divisive hate IN their personal struggle for social power.

And still, we are hopeful, thanks to the Resolution here against cyberbullying ==> that is continuing in this session.

I invite you to leverage our experience in our book
to exchange knowledge and work together.
So we can give our children better and more enriched lives,
thanks to the many blessings of social media.

I’m thankful for the privilege of presenting our insights, and am looking forward to continuing working with many of you.

How to deal with the rise of cyberbullying?

bottom of page