Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Cyber Bullying, Parents need to prepare themselves
Sophie came home looking depressed and went to bed much earlier than normal. When she awoke she was reluctant to go to school. On her social network page someone had posted “you are a slut” with a morphed nude picture. Many other had “liked” the posts. Sophie was a target of petty jealously but the result was public humiliation in front of her entire friends circle.
According to StopCyberbulling.org "Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
Cyberbullying has become a serious concern as children do not think about what they write online as they would if they wrote a letter. British police say they will start giving perceived cyberbullies a digital tap on the shoulder if their online behavior starts crossing the line of civility.
Star Trek is one of my favorite serials. One of the episodes depicted an alternate universe, with the same characters but with different roles and temperaments. Today’s online world is very similar to this alternate reality. The timid lad bullied on the playground becomes a fearsome online cyberbully. The girls who gossiped in school alleyways spread wild rumors on social networking sites. As the school and neighborhood expands into the online world with the additions of friends of friends and unknown strangers, the impact of cyber bullying becomes severe. Spoken words can be erased quickly and are limited to the few who heard them, but the online written word persists and leaves a lasting impression.
In an offline world such matters would be resolved by teachers and parents but the same does not hold true online. Lack of jurisdiction, limited parental awareness and growing parental intolerance put the focus on fixing the perpetrator, another child rather than on child correction and resolution. If we want to improve the system the focus has to be on raising child awareness through counseling and education. The online world is a reality. Parents cannot cut their child off or protect them from its consequences as much as they can invest time in preparing themselves and their children to understand the risks, and ethics in the online world