Brief enquiries

What Can We Do to Stop Cyberbullying, Mr Chaux? 

By Lilo Berg

When the cruelty would not stop, the girl changed school in Bavaria. Her former classmates had bullied her on Facebook with comments like, “You’re a pain, just die.” The 14-year-old had no way of defending herself, the abuse was anonymous.

Enrique Chaux (Photo: Humboldt Foundation / Barbara Dombrowski)
Enrique Chaux (Photo: Humboldt Foundation / Barbara Dombrowski)

“We have the same problem in Colombia,” says Enrique Chaux. The psychologist estimates that every tenth school student in his country has been the victim of cyberbullying at least once. It is a particularly humiliating form of violence because everyone knows about it – peers, teachers, parents, 24/7, year in, year out. “Physical fights are different; they come to an end,” says Chaux.

The 46-year-old knows all about aggression. Something not unlike a civil war has been raging in his country for the last 50 years, fuelled by the drug cartels. In some areas there are frequent shootings. Over the years, thousands of school students have taken part in the Programme “Aulas en Paz” (Classrooms in Peace), developed by Chaux and colleagues at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. It teaches young people how to deal with aggression constructively, and studies have shown that it can have a significant impact on reducing physical violence. But it cannot do much about cyberbullying.

Enrique Chaux actually wanted to become an astrophysicist, but then he decided to opt for psychology and educational science. “At least the next generation should be able to escape this spiral of violence.”

And that is why Chaux is now in Berlin at Freie Universität. Here, in the Division of Developmental Science and Applied Developmental Psychology, “Medienhelden” (Media Heroes) was developed, a particularly effective programme for training young people. They learn, for example, to empathise with the victims of social media attacks and discover that conflicts rely heavily on apparently uninvolved observers: turning a blind eye actually reinforces violence.

Enrique Chaux hopes to launch a Spanish version of “Medienhelden” in Colombia as early as 2015, followed by Mexico. Time is of the essence – every day, cyberbullying claims ever more victims.

published in Humboldt Kosmos 102/2014

Professor Dr. Enrique Chaux forscht und lehrt an der Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Kolumbien. Seit November 2013 ist er als Georg Forster-Forschungsstipendiat an der Freien Universität Berlin zu Gast.