Telefono Azzurro, Ernesto Caffo: “Let children return to the center of attention”

The name comes from the medium, which at the time was practically unique. He asked for help with a phone call to a number that began with the prefix 051. 35 years ago it was born Phone Azzurro, listening, help and support services for children and young people. It was the beginning of an era of attention to the little ones. From the telephone, then only landline, we have moved on to all the tools and channels that technology and the digital world have made available to talk to the youngest. The goal remains the same: the defense of children’s rights.

In 1990 came the national toll-free number 1678-48.048, which at the end of 1994 became the current one 1.96.96, run around the clock by volunteers. Since 2003, 114 have also been activated, managed on behalf of the Ministry of Gender Equality. In 2009 116000the common European number for missing children.

Telefono Azzurro has handled over 120,000 cases. The association, founded by Ernesto Caffo, Professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, he works thanks to the participation of volunteers who, together with schools and institutions, have established and strengthened a network of listening, dialogue and intervention in defense of minors’ rights. The themes are universal: the fight against abuse, pedophilia, bullying and cyberbullying in support of children affected by recent social tragedies, such as the war in Ukraine. “The world of children and young people, like their families, has changed, and Telefono Azzurro, as a listening structure, has adapted to a changing society and faces new challenges and problems.”

What are the needs and problems of the minors that Telefono Azzurro handles, and how have they changed?
“There is the fragility of the family protection network, the big theme of adults’ unwillingness to play a parental role and the break-ups that have consequences for children, especially given the inadequacy of today’s community and schooling and support in case of difficulties. On the other on the other hand, we must think of the digital world, which in recent years has also radically changed children’s cognitive, emotional and social development, and which has undoubtedly led to forms of difficulty and discomfort: the absence of educational and support figures with all that. this leads to an increase in cases of grooming, sexual assault in the network and problems such as cyberbullying, which require new concrete intervention measures that start with listening. after those who have been considered as other priorities – the pandemic, the war and the economic crisis – by listening to and giving e n voice for children and young people ».

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The most difficult period in these years?
“The most difficult periods meet when childhood is not considered central. In 1987, when Telefono Azzurro started his own business, it was not easy to give children a voice because we had to build a new scenario where childhood was at the center. for everything in a country where there was a delay in the issue of the rights of the youngest.There is a lack of financial resources we live in a country where we do not invest in them even though we talk a lot about these issues.Even today We live in a difficult time because we experience a silence in the face of children’s problems. resources to create services and activities to support the youngest ”.

What are the dangers the young people face the most?
“The greatest dangers are associated with the fragility of children maturing in the absence of adequate educational and social reference numbers. This is the major theme that leads to children’s mental disorders, suicidal behavior and objective difficulties in their development. There is also the problem of curbing up to the typical difficulties of adolescence, with the risk of becoming involved in negative situations and relationships, both with peers and adults, as well as cases of bullying or the development of harmful behavior towards oneself and others due to feelings of helplessness ».

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