Rabat -

Samia (a pseudonym) was 13 years old when she received an invitation on a social networking site from a young man she did not know.

The relationship developed between Samia and this young man, who told her that he was 16 years old, and persuaded her to send pictures and videos showing her in "inappropriate" situations.

The next day, the girl discovered that the young man had blocked her on all communication sites without understanding the reason, only to be surprised by her private photos that had been sent to the phones of her schoolmates.

Samia spent difficult days, during which she heard harsh words from her classmates, and received messages containing insults and bullying phrases, when she finally decided to tell her parents.

After the end of the school year, the girl had to change school to escape the treatment and exclusion of her colleagues, but the pictures spread again on the phones of her colleagues in her new school.

The slogan of the "Click and Protect" campaign to protect young people and adolescents from cyberbullying (Al-Jazeera)

motivate the community

Samia resorted to the "Smile of Reda" association in Casablanca for advice. Although years have passed since the accident and she reached the age of 18, she has not been able to recover from what she was exposed to, and she is still living the effects of the trauma, and every time she passes in front of her school she experiences the same feelings of pain as if the years had not passed.

The "Rida's Smile" association in Casablanca launched a national awareness campaign in partnership with Instagram, entitled "Click and Protect", with the aim of confronting online bullying and harassment on social media platforms, and helping to protect users, especially young people, from the harm that this problem can cause.

The "Rida's Smile" team says that the campaign is a call to action to motivate the community to participate and interact with a higher level of awareness, to show concern and to highlight the widespread spread of cyberbullying.

Through this partnership, young people will be provided with the tools Instagram provides to the community to combat bullying, which help people protect their accounts from bullies, from unwanted communication activities, encourage positive interactions and empower people to stand up for themselves.

There are currently more than 10 tools and courses available for Instagram users to combat and report online bullying.

UNICEF defines cyberbullying as bullying using digital technologies and it can occur on social media, messaging platforms, online gaming platforms and cell phones.

It is also - according to the same source - a repeated behavior aimed at intimidating, angering or defaming the target people, and among the examples of this type of bullying are spreading lies or posting embarrassing pictures of someone on social media, sending harmful messages or threats via messaging platforms and impersonation The character of someone and sending vile messages to others in his name.

Bullying is not normal

Studies conducted by the "Rida's Smile" team revealed that 62% of young people in Morocco had experienced online bullying or harassment, 58% had witnessed some form of violence against other people, and 47.7% admitted that they had committed some form of violence.

During the period between 2019 and 2020, the Moroccan Center for Multi-Technology Research and Innovation conducted an investigation to measure the extent and extent of the phenomenon of cyber harassment among Moroccan youth.

This investigation covered 8 parties, targeting an age group between 8 and 28 years, 78% of whom are under 17 years old.

31% of the children and adolescents interviewed admitted that they had been exposed to some types of cyber-harassment, while 4.7% of the children and youth interviewed indicated that they had been threatened.

Mariam Bahri, director of the "Smile Reda" association, says that young people are aware of the existence of bullying and live it, but they do not know its seriousness and believe that what is happening is normal practice.

And she added in an interview with Al Jazeera Net, "Our role is to show them that what is happening is not normal, and that the matter involves multiple risks, and that we teach them tools that help them confront and stop cyberbullying."

Among the dangers of cyber-bullying and its severe consequences for children and adolescents are loss of concentration, sleep problems, low academic achievement of the victim, poor self-confidence, isolation and may all lead the victim to think of suicide.

The association has prepared an e-book that includes the tools that should be used in social networking sites to confront bullies, such as blocking, hiding, restricting, reporting, protecting privacy and other tools.

"We explained these tools in the book in an easy and simplified way, and through videos presented by young people from the association and broadcast on Instagram and Facebook," Maryam explains.

shock turns into action

The "Rida's Smile" association was founded about 11 years ago, and the suicide of the 13-year-old child, Reda, was a shock to his family, relatives and friends.

These people turned this trauma into a motivation to establish a serious civic action that provides support for children, adolescents and youth, and a space to listen to their suffering and problems and everything that might push them to harm themselves or make their lives unbearable.

Under a partnership between "Rida's Smile" and Instagram, users of these communication networks in Morocco who are being bullied or need support and assistance are directed to the website of Rida's smile, as well as the "Stop the Silence" helpline at the Facebook Safety Center.

The Safety Center has data and data that deal with many ways to obtain help and some advice designed to support and support people who are going through difficult and critical circumstances.

In addition, when Moroccans share any content about the scourge of suicide or self-harm, or when they search for it on Facebook or Instagram, they will find help available to them in a special application for that, including information on how to contact the association in order to enable its workers to provide the necessary support to the person who crossed the line. about his need for it.

According to Maryam Bahri, the helpline is a confidential, free and open phone line for teenagers and young people under the age of 21.

These communications are dealt with by cadres from the association who have received training to deal with people who have suicidal thoughts or live internal suffering and need someone to help them to overcome them, according to a professional listening protocol.

Maryam points out that "about 30% of the young people who contacted us had made a suicide attempt, and 60% of the callers had suicidal thoughts, and the rest had emotional problems, family and studies, and problems related to cyberbullying and violence."

She explains, "We follow a listening protocol based on one contact, we receive a call from an unknown person, we listen to him and his suffering, and we try to reach with him a point where he puts suicidal thoughts aside and formulate with him a plan for recovery and overcoming the suffering by directing him to seek the assistance of someone from his surroundings or specialists."

The Reda's Smile team hopes that their awareness campaigns and initiatives will help victims of bullying, online harassment and all forms of violence to talk about their suffering and share it with their surroundings and community, and to learn the tools that help them stop cyberbullying and protect themselves.