Perils of an Online World.

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.

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17 responses to “Perils of an Online World.

  1. I think the further we go in to this one, the more clued up our kids will be about issues such as cyber bullying. Kids are already showing a heightened awareness of issues we couldn’t have comprehended ten years ago.
    As parents we’re going to find ourselves walking a fine line between trust in our kids and watching over them. It’s never going to be an easy one.

  2. Reluctant Blogger

    Yes, there have been a few incidences of that over here too. One girl was sent to jail for bullying and sending death threats to a school friend on Facebook.

    I think it is worse with girls.

    I do have my children added as friends on Facebook, so I suppose in a way I keep a weather eye. But they chose to add me rather than the other way around. I do very much believe in giving them freedom and privacy and just trying to keep a close eye on whether they seem happy or not. I could not read their emails without their permission – I don’t think I could do that under any circumstances.

    But life is certainly more complicated these days. I do very much hate the gathering of lists of names on Facebook that young people seem to do. We have talks about it all over dinner and so far they seem to be being sensible about it.

    We did once have someone asking slightly iffy questions on Runescape but like with your son, my son logged off and came and told me straight away.

    I think as long as we keep the channels of communication open, talk about our own online experiences too and make it all part of our world (not something shady and secret) then hopefully they will be OK?

    But these cases are very sad.

  3. Relutant Blogger I think you’re right- communication is the key. I think people do feel they can be ruder behind a cover name. I don’t pry, per se, on my kids, but they know leaving a cellphone around means I’m reading your messages. We all know it- so leave unsupervised at your peril. I want to know what those Giant Teenagers are up to. They’re sneaky these people, once they get into double digits. :)

  4. I take a very simple line, Selma. I assume everything I do on the internet is in public. Kind of the opposite of anonymity. Bullying is becoming more and more prevalent for some reason.

  5. VIC:
    It’s true. It’s never going to be easy; it’s a real balancing act. I agree with you that the further we go into this the more likely we are to find a solution.

    RELUCS:
    When I googled the story of the girl who committed suicide there were so many similar cases all around the world. It was frightening. And sad. It is such a shame these kids don’t have the skills to brush this kind of bullying off. I guess it’s so insidious that it becomes hard to avoid it.

    Keeping the lines of communication open is definitely the way to go!

    LAURI:
    You are awesome. Leave your phone unsupervised at your peril. LOL. With a snoop like me around that is too good an invitation to refuse :lol:

    PAUL:
    I’m all for that. However, being upfront is a skill many people lack these days. It’s a shame, but bullying does seem more prevalent today. Maybe we’re becoming a much more insecure society.

  6. I agree with you; it was a lot simpler 20 years ago.I’ve had to deal with a few cyber bullies in chat rooms and in comment pages but luckily, you can block most of their hatred filled comments. Racist, vulgar & vile comments by idiots who probably got dropped on the head as babies. It takes a lot to protect a child from such hatred but there’s only so much that we can do. My sister doesn’t let her sons (aged 11 & 10) near the internet except for supervised searches for school related stuff or cartoony stuff. That works for now but what about later?

  7. Hi ROSHAN,
    I am sorry you’ve experienced that. There are a lot of unhappy people in the world but I do think (I hope) that the good outweigh the bad. Your sister sounds very sensible, but as you say, it becomes more difficult to monitor the internet as the children get older.

  8. I really despair about this because it’s so much harder to control even than regular bullying. Imagine being a young kid on the receiving end of this type of vindictiveness? This is the kind of damage that can be carried throughout a person’s life leaving a legacy of damage for all future relationships and friendships.

    At the moment I don’t monitor my daughters’ internet use because I trust them. We communicate a lot and there is a lot of information about the dangers of internet usage coming from school. Like RB I would be hard pressed to ever snoop through their emails and wouldn’t unless I felt they were in real danger. I do understand though how it could become necessary in some cases.

    It’s not an easy world to be young in any more and I am thankful I didn’t grow up in this day and age.

  9. There is so much good and so much bad to consider about the world of the internet. I am glad that these pervs are finally getting some serious jail time when they are caught. If they are caught I should say. I also long for simpler times and simpler ways but all through the ages, there’s been brutality and unkindness, just in different forms. I am just (finally!) reading: The Agony and the Ecstasy and even wayyyy back then, wow the things that went on…and from sources like the Vatican, awful.

    If I could have picked an era to live in, it probably would have been the 40’s. I love the music, the clothes, the romance of those days…my mom grew up humming to the music of Frank Sinatra, watching Casablanca as a first run, wearing gardenias in her hair to dances. Now that sounds like my kind of scene.

    Hugs, G

  10. I’m friends with my daughter on FB – she has a blog but never uses it – mostly she uses the FB chat and I have the computer where I can look over her shoulder at any time. Usually though she tells me everything before I get curious – she’s homeschooled, so there aren’t the bully things going on around her that happen to some kids. I’m very aware of what’s going on in her life, but I’m also aware that it can all change quickly if I’m not observant. I don’t like the atmosphere of myspace – I think that one is creepy. My kids do NO gaming online, and luckily they aren’t interested in chat rooms – she has gotten weird offers for friends on FB – I’ve instructed her to ignore them and she’s glad to comply.

    I have never understood the fascination with people bulling others. My brother was labeled and had a terrible time AT CHURCH of all places growing up with threats and continuous bad mouthing – the boys even peed on his sleeping bag at scout camp. Boys that were supposedly going to grow up to be upstanding young men – every one of them quit going to church except one, and he and his family have serious issues. I wish this young girl had known what my brother did – take the experience and gain strength and go on with life – you’ll move on and do great things, while they will whither and be weak. I’ve seen it over and over.

    Take good care – Nick’s got a great head on his shoulders!

  11. Raising children is a crap shoot and always has been. Each age has a different peril for the children that parents do not know about or understand. You have to let them learn and grow and not all of their choices are going to be good. We had luck with our kids by keeping close and talking. A must meeting once a week and dinner together at least 3 nights. We were lucky and had very few problems. Notice the key word here is lucky.

  12. GYPSY:
    Couldn’t agree more. It is a very tough time to live in. We as adults say : ‘Why don’t they just stay off the net?’ but it’s not as simple as that. The internet world is as much a part of their life as the offline world. It is so hard for kids these days. It sounds like you have a very positive relationship with your daughters. I definitely think that’s the way to go.

    GERALDINE:
    You are so right. There have been problems throughout history. I guess that’s part of being human – adapting to and overcoming obstacles.

    I would definitely love to have lived in the ’40s, closely followed by the ’50s. Loved the music, the fashions, the cars. It was an amazing period!

    TEXASBLU:
    Sounds like a very positive way to go with your daughter. I just get the bullying thing, either. I think a lot of the time people start doing it to show off or something like that without considering how big an effect it has on the person being bullied. I think there are a lot of people out there who have very little empathy for others and that is a problem. Good Mums like you truly make a difference!!

    OLD GRIZZ:
    Maybe it was luck, but it was more likely to be that your kids felt they could talk to you and that you were there to support them. That is invaluable. I bet you are a great Dad!

  13. Hi TEX,
    I meant to say ‘I just DON’T get….’ my internal editor stopped working for a bit there :D

  14. Tremendously sad. I think we really need to encourage dialogue with our kids. I remember being afraid to tell my parents how bad things were at school. As if it was some sort of failing on my part that kids picked on me…

    Growing up is hard… it’s no easier with all our gizmos.

  15. I am very concerned about the internet and my grandchildren. Fortunately my children are very astute in this matter and keep constant vigilance. My grandchildren know their face book, emails, and even cell phone text are subject to scrutiny at any moment. It is interesting to watch the daily talk shows where parents argue and fuss with their children over the “lack of privacy” and the “you don’t trust me” complaints. I am so relieved my children remembered my words when they announced they were not going to do their homework, to which I replied, “And just who said you had a choice? There is no choice in this matter.” I think sometimes parents try to hard to be friends instead of parents. There are just some things in raising children where there are no choices, only the rules of the house. I believe internet usage is one of those.

  16. NAT:
    It’s awful, isn’t it? I was the same. I couldn’t tell my parents about one girl at school who bullied me for years because I thought it would upset them too much. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? You are so right about opening up the dialogue.

    CRICKET:
    I completely agree with you. In these cases we definitely have to be parents, not friends. And we have to communicate the dangers quite directly and clearly, so there is no possibility of confusion. With you around, I’m sure your grandchildren will be well looked after!

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