Addressing and Mitigating Risks of Young People in Online Social Networks – [Cyprus] 

Addressing and Mitigating Risks of Young People in Online Social Networks - Cyprus

The national report for Cyprus examines the main factors making young Cypriots vulnerable to risks during their online interactions as well as how a safe environment for the youth can be achieved. 

Within the framework of the RISE project, which addresses the topic of online risks associated to the online presence of young people (16-30 years old) and the use of online social networks, in the context of the post Covid-19 pandemic, the situation in six European countries has been investigated: Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy and Romania.

Specifically, the study in each country has explored the online behavior of young people, their attitudes towards the main identified risks, preventive and risky behaviors, incidence of the manifestation of these risks, critical reading ability, together with other relevant factors. Moreover, the study has explored the attitudes of young people regarding global threats such as pandemics, international politics, armed conflicts, refugees, as well as the risk factors concerning fake news and disinformation. 

In the case of Cyprus, according to the young interviewees (40 responses), youth falls victim to online misinformation and fake news because of: 

  • Lack of education;
  • A false believe from older generations that whatever they read on the internet is true;
  • The uncontrolled content of online resources;
  • Lack or low level of critical thinking;
  • Lack of multiple sources of information;
  • Lack of curiosity to explore more;
  • Lack of theoretical understanding of ideologies that are hidden behind certain news items;
  • No cross-checking the sources.

As a result, young Cypriots have fallen victims to online harassment or trolling (15%), to cyberstalking (15%), to cyberbulling (10%), to identity theft (10%), to online threats (10%). Also, 7,5% of the young interviewees had false statements posted online in their name and 5% fell victims of outing/doxting.

As for providing information to a person from the internet which they have never met in person and with whom they have no institutional affiliation, 55% noted they shared identification information (name, ID number, etc.); 40% of the respondents shared information about their location; 22,5% shared information about their personal/intimate life; 10% shared intimate photos or information; 10% shared other types of information, and only 27,5% mentioned that they do not share anything from the above. 

However, 70% of the respondents noted that they have provided intimate information, photos or videos to a friend or a partner online.

The social networks they use the most are: Instagram (100%), Facebook (77,5%), LinkedIn (45%), TikTok (40%), and Twitter (25%). Other social networks mentioned included WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat and Reddit (2,5% each one). 

In order to prevent and combat the identified risks, young people and young workers and trainers should be offered training and educational tools. Capacity-building programs should include thematic training sessions on sex education, gender equality, internet use, cybersecurity, soft skills and fact-checking. The main subjects to be addressed include social platforms and online risks for young people, risky online behavior, technical information about securing online accounts, addressing youth vulnerability and disinformation. Also, youth trainers/ workers should be empowered to develop soft skills in youth and to establish a good trainer-trainee relationship. 

In order to successfully reach their target audience, the training programs should include participatory methods and non-formal education techniques (for example: simulations, role-play games, group work), as well as practical examples and real-life scenarios. Moreover, trainers/ facilitators should be empathic and encourage all participants to share their views and experiences and should create a safe environment. When possible, the trainings should also include guest speakers who experienced the manifestation of these risks or vloggers/ influencers who are popular among young people.

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