There was a recent tragic incident in Victoria where a 14 year old Chantelle Rae killed herself as a result of being bullied online.
Two girls in my son’s class were given written warnings for doing the same thing. Bullying a girl in their class they thought was a loser. On Facebook. The parents of the girl who was being terrorised online are considering taking legal action.
Cyber bullying. Makes going to school these days an entirely different kettle of fish. Compromising photos that have more than likely been photoshopped, defamatory comments, the spread of rumours, can be round the internet in minutes. Kind of makes you long for the old days where all that happened was Joey McGee punching you in the face if you didn’t give him your lunch money. Or Susie Reynolds pouring her drink bottle all over the stairs so you’d slip and land on your arse then have to put up with a wet patch all day and people saying one after the other : Have you wet yourself?
Sweet, sweet times.
There is something sinister about the tone of High School bullying these days. Makes me wonder if we are becoming a nastier society. Makes me wonder if our dark sides would always come to the fore if we thought we could colour ourselves anonymous. Like on the internet.
And there’s the rub. Anonymity is an illusion on the internet. These kids think they are untraceable, untouchable, but they’re not. Pretty much every account and email address on the internet can be traced. Surely, they know that?
Yet it doesn’t stop them from saying hideous, hurtful things they would never dream of saying to the object of their bullying face to face.
So here’s the question of the day. Should you read your children’s emails every now and then to get a handle on what’s going on? Should you follow them on Facebook or Myspace so you can nip any drama that develops in the bud? Or is encouraging them to be honest and open with you enough?
Then there are the other internet perils which should probably be discussed in a completely separate post – the pedophiles. We have already had a couple of incidents on the Playstation Network where my son plays games online where other players have asked strange questions like : How old are you? Are your parents at home? Would you like to meet up?
Fortunately, Nick is savvy enough to tell me about those things straight away. But other children are not.
That’s what worries me. There are so many pitfalls in the online world and young teens just don’t have the wherewithall to handle them appropriately. I think vigilance on the part of the parents is the key, remembering that it is easy for paranoia to cloud that vigilance.
Sometimes I long for the days when the worst that could happen was having your name written on the bathroom wall. I never thought I would say that. A limited number of people would see it. Now if it’s written on the Facebook wall thousands of people could see it.
Longing for simpler times is not the answer, however. The internet is here to stay. We just need to learn to tackle the perils it throws in our path. For our children and for ourselves.