Every era has its own moral panic, and there’s no doubt in many minds that the peril stalking today’s children comes cloaked in the garb of social media. It’s not surprising that many parents, teachers and health professionals are worried when headlines regularly implicate online social media as a factor in everything from school bullying to teen suicide… The truth is that most kids above a certain age use social media and online networking sites, and the vast majority do so without major incident.
If you read the comments on pretty much any article about the internet gone wrong you’d be forgiven for thinking that for most kids it’s a jungle out there and that inattentive parents are to blame, but the actual figures show that only 3% of children using the internet experience some kind of threatening event online and 98% of parents implement safety and security strategies around internet use at home.
The Age has recently reported that in a bizarre cry for help, some teenagers who appear to be victims of cyberbullying are actually using social media platforms to self harm.
Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre found that up to 10 per cent of first-year university students had ”falsely posted a cruel remark against themselves, or cyberbullied themselves, during high school”.
For the ”digital self-harmer” the presence of an audience appears to serve other purposes too. Anonymously calling oneself a ”loser” online allows them to test out other people’s attitudes: do other people see me this way too? Is my perception of myself shared universally?
for students and parents. Although some posts are US specific, most of the resources are applicable to us in Australia.
Mary Kay Hoal is the author and creator of Yourshpere, a US based site with a wealth of information on ways to keep safe when using social media. “She is an Internet safety expert in the USA and the founder of Yoursphere.com.”
Last week, Mashable published this post on the waning appeal of Facebook by a New York teenager.
Now, when we are old enough to get Facebook, we don’t want it. By the time we could have Facebooks, we were already obsessed with Instagram. Facebook was just this thing all our parents seemed to have.
Let’s say I get invited to a party, and there’s underage drinking. I’m not drinking, but someone pulls out a camera. Even if I’m not carrying a red Solo cup, I could be photographed behind a girl doing shots. Later that week, the dumb-dumb decides to post photos from that “amazing” party. If my mom saw I was at a party with drinking, even if I wasn’t participating, I’d be dead. This isn’t Facebook’s fault, but it happens there.
Facebook is also a big source of bullying in middle school. Kids might comment something mean on a photo of you, or message you mean things. This isn’t Facebook’s fault, but again, it does happen there. If my mom heard I was getting bullied on Facebook, she would tell me to quit right away.
An interesting insight into teenagers’ thoughts about social media. Read the whole post here.
Nearly 80 per cent of Australian children under 10 years of age use social networks. Among older teenagers – those 16 and 17 – parents underestimate bullying and risky online behaviour. But the most likely candidate for cyber-bullying is a 14 year old girl who checks her Facebook account daily.
By the time teenagers are 16, parents start to underestimate the likelihood of their child being bullied or involved in upsetting experiences. Only 17 per cent of parents said their 16-year-old was bothered by something on the internet, but 26 per cent of teenagers of that age said they suffered through an upsetting experience.
What is of concern is that once parents believe that their work is done, that their children know how to successfully navigate the social media world is when they are actually most at risk.
A few days ago, The Age reported about a Facebook parenting page that had been the site of cyberbullying by mothers towards other mothers:
After a sharp increase in negative, personal and mean comments, Babyology’s managing editor Mandi Gunsberger advised ”we have made the decision to remove at our discretion any negative or abusive comments … Unless you would make a comment face-to-face, then this negativity does not have a place in our online space,” she said.
What is of huge concern is that adults, who should be role modelling positive internet use to their children, are the perpetrators of cyberbullying. As Babyology’s editor Mandi Gunsberger says, ‘ unless you would make a comment face-to-face, then this negativity does not have a place in our online space.’
A recent article in The Australian newspaper has stated that parents who don’t match their children’s online skills are ill-equipped to deal with all aspects of cybersafety.
THE generation gap has left courts ill-equipped to deal with cyber bullying, a senior judge says.
And a top cop says parents must match their children’s cyber skills to stay a step ahead of online predators.
Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner (operations) Michael Phelan, who will also speak at the two-day conference beginning on Thursday, urged parents to match their children’s abilities online to ward off trolls and stalkers on social media.
“The digital divide between what children know and what their parents know can mean that we may be one step behind children and, subsequently, one step behind the offenders,” he said.
The US Federal government’s website Stop Bullying is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn how to report and prevent cyberbullying. The site covers:
Steps to take immediately
Reporting cyberbullying to online service providers
Reporting cyberbullying to law enforcement agencies
Reporting cyberbullying to schools
While a US site (and please note that US contact details are given, which are not appropriate for Australian audiences), it is still a useful resource providing guidance and ideas on who and where to turn if cyberbullying is an issue.