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OECD Encourages Policymakers to Address Risks of Digital Tech on Stop Cyberbullying Day

OECD encourages policymakers to take action on Stop Cyberbullying Day
© Bianca Castillo

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has called on policymakers worldwide to address the risks posed by digital technologies on Stop Cyberbullying Day. The OECD identified the need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of cyberbullying, problematic internet use (PIU), and problematic social media use (PSMU) on mental health.

The OECD outlined a number of resources in its Digital Economy Outlook for policymakers to review to mark Stop Cyberbullying Day. Research has consistently shown that cyberbullying is linked to decreased life satisfaction and various mental health issues, including depression and psychological distress. Studies also suggest that cyberbullying may have a more severe impact on mental health than face-to-face bullying, making it a critical area for policy intervention.

Recent data underscores that cyberbullying involves repeated, intentional aggressive behaviour facilitated by online media, creating a sense of repetition for the victim due to the widespread dissemination of harmful content. Additionally, adolescents engaging in digital self-harm, including self-cyberbullying, are at a significantly higher risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Policymakers are urged to consider the OECD’s findings, which indicate that problematic internet use (PIU) is associated with difficulties in everyday functioning, interpersonal relationships, and emotional well-being. PIU has been linked to various mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD symptoms, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The measures for assessing PIU often rely on self-reported questionnaires that address issues like loss of control, withdrawal symptoms, and reduced sleep due to internet use.

Problematic social media use (PSMU) is similarly associated with serious mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and stress. The OECD’s recent report notes that PSMU can lead to attention deficits, sleep problems, and feelings of exclusion, particularly among young people. The pervasive fear of missing out (FOMO) also drives PSMU, exacerbating its impact on mental health.

Stop Cyberbullying Day, founded and coordinated by The Cybersmile Foundation brings together brands, governments, and public figures to address the pervasive issue of online abuse. Supported by the EU, UK government, UNICEF, and leading organisations, the day serves as a global platform to raise awareness and promote strategies to combat cyberbullying. It highlights the collective efforts required to create a safer digital environment for all users.

As the OECD continues to advocate for robust policies to address these issues, governments and organisations are being encouraged to collaborate and implement effective measures to protect individuals, particularly the youth, from the harmful impacts of digital tech on mental health.