Cardinal Peter Turkson says that one of the ways the Holy See is working to help children "who live in situations of injustice, violence and exploitation" is to actively help those who have been victims of harassment online.

The Ghanaian cardinal and president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace made these remarks during a press conference held Tuesday morning in the Vatican press office, where he presented the international online bullying awareness campaign “Stop Threats on the Internet,” in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Other speakers included Flaminia Giovanelli, undersecretary of the same dicastery, Don Fortunato Di Noto, president of the Associazione Meter; Olivier Duval, president of the Bureau International Catholique de l'Enfance (BICE); and Laetitia Chanut, a former victim of cyber-bullying who gave her testimony.

The Holy See, through the ratification of treaties on the rights of the child, said Cardinal Turkson, expressed its constant concern for the well-being of children and their families. Recalling St. John Paul II’s description of children as a “precious treasure, given to each generation as a challenge to its wisdom and humanity,” the prelate expressed his hope that the agreements guarantee the protection of all children’s rights and interests.

“Bullying on the internet is a new form of violence,” he stressed.

Yet the Holy See, he noted, “never misses an opportunity" to remind organizations of the duty "to ensure every child's right to life and living conditions compatible with the inherent dignity of each human person.”

Continuing challenge

Despite adoption of regulations and programs to combat abuses, Cardinal Turkson said, “Humanity has not been able to completely eradicate the various forms of violence and exploitation against children,” especially the “terrible plague” of harassment on the internet, particularly by online predators.

That young people nowadays are continually “connected,” the speakers agreed, can be partially tied to parents not spending enough time with their children. Studies suggest that parents must be involved with how their children are exposed to technology, to mitigate risks.

On the other hand, the Vatican officials did note that technology and social networks, if used properly, can enhance family relationships. For example, when family members live far from each other, social networks help facilitate remaining in contact.

Don Fortunato stressed that an online connection must not be just a "virtual" reality, but rather should be accompanied by "real," offline relationships, people, and situations.