COMECE calls on EU to prioritise family values in digital age

In a newly released document drafted by its consultative youth body, Youth Net, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) stresses the need for EU policymakers to prioritise family values and Christian ethics to reduce the negative effects of the digital revolution on younger generations.

By Lisa Zengarini

In response to the rapid digital transformation impacting European societies, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) has released a comprehensive contribution of its consultative body, Youth Net, stressing the importance of EU policies that better support families in the digital age to reduce the negative effects of the new media on younger generations.

Digital Challenges for Families in Europe

The document, entitled “Digital Challenges for Families in Europe”, addresses the dual nature of the digital revolution pointing to both the benefits and risks of enhanced connectivity and, therefore, to the need for EU policymakers to ensure that technological advances reinforce family values and and harmonise with the Christian ethos.

Recalling this year’s Message World Day of Peace on "Artificial Intelligence and Peace” in which Pope Francis stated that the “inherent dignity and fraternity must undergird the development of new technologies,” the introduction to the  document remarks that those words are an invitation to individuals worldwide “to reflect on the trajectory of technological advancements and engage in crafting new ethical frameworks for families.”

This argument, the preface further notes, has been reinforced by feedback from youth representatives across EU Member States, and also by official EU barometers emphasising this common concern among families, facing the dual challenge of adapting to the new technologies “while seeking to participate in the democratic processes that foster societal cohesion.”

The impact of digitalisation on family dynamics and society

The nine-page document identifies some key challenges posed by digitalisation on family dynamics, such as social isolation, mental health issues, digital addiction, online risks for children and, on a vaster scale, its cultural and societal impacts affecting traditional Christian and family values.

It goes on to highlight the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, including human dignity, care for the Common Good, and promoting genuine interactions,  as vital to address these issues, pointing to the central role of the family.

Recommendations in light of the Catholic Social Teaching

In light of these principles and to develop a more connected, respectful and human-centred digital environment, COMECE Youth Net, therefore, recommends EU policymakers to implement three pivotal actions.

The first is to promote Media and Information Literacy (MIL), that is education focused on critical thinking and ethical principles, involving Churches and faith-based organizations in creating educational projects.

Secondly, the contribution calls for a more effective regulation to protect children from harmful online content such as pornography, leveraging collaboration with faith-based institutions.

Finally, it suggests promoting genuine human connections through a social campaign addressing issues like loneliness and self-esteem, involving diverse role models.

Need for a concerted effort 

In conclusion, the document insists on the need for a concerted effort to balance technological advancements with the preservation of family values and human dignity. “By focusing on education, regulation, and positive digital engagement, we can create an environment that supports both technological advancement and the preservation of core family and societal values,” it concludes.

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06 July 2024, 16:19