Tuesday, September 04, 2007

RM column June 29th - ethugs and cyber bullying

God it has been a seriously long time since I published any of my columns and I don't know where to begin with them. I'll need to go back and check them out, some of which have been included here in some version, others are completely new. The last one I published was from May 31st and I reckon after that there were a lot of Junior Cert related ones which have already been posted here.

So I'll take a stabbing guess now and publish what I think to be the next one along, it probably isn't though. And I should do an update for this one, because the ending (as has happened over time) is not what I have initially written. I'll explain that again when I get the energy.

E-thugs and Cyber Bullying

New figures show that our young people do not appear to be learning how to use the internet safely or indeed responsibly with one third of American teenagers and one in five of UK teenagers who go on line claiming to be the victims of cyber-bullying.

While these figures do not relate to Ireland there is no reason whatsoever to think this is not happening here on our kids’ social networking Bebo and MySpace pages.

Branded e-thugs, cyber-bullies are using the internet to target others. Bullying on the internet has hit 39 per cent of teen social-network users in the States compared to the 22 per cent of teenagers who do not use social networking sites who have been bullied.

One of the biggest complaints is that personal information is being shared, embarrassing photographs are being published on-line without the person’s permission. This kind of thing could be devastating for any of us let alone those vulnerable teenage years.

The Young Wan is on holiday and recently set up another Bebo page. She has definitely learned from her previous experience where former friends targeted him in a nasty and vindictive campaign of bullying. This stemmed onwards and outwards and they even spread their vile to kids she was in primary school with.

This resulted in me visiting one of the perpetrator’s parents who were brilliant and understanding and we cleared the whole thing up and had the vicious remarks deleted from the site.

Now that she is away from the summer she misses her friends and has been keeping in touch using gmail and her new Bebo page. But one of the former pals has found her page and has been commenting with his normal-brand of idiocy.

The good thing is that she appears to not be too bothered by this. And that’s fine. My worry is that he will start to take it up to the levels he did last year where I was compelled to bring it to an unsuspecting parents’ door.

It is as if the kids feel the internet removes them from their actions; when in fact it links them to this bad behaviour in ways they could never dream of. Ways that could see the Guards knocking on their door. Or ways that will edge a vulnerable teenager over the edge, over something that possibly started off as a joke or a slagging.

That’s not to say I think they are unaware of the consequences of their actions, some of them don’t care at all and I know that.

As horrible as the playground bullying is, bringing that to the internet gives it another life, it spreads and could become linked to the victim for a lot longer than a bad nickname would.

A whispered rumour in a school takes on a whole new dimension on the internet. With rumours time passes and others become the centre of attention. Sometimes the rumour may not even make its way back to the person targeted.

However, when this rumour is put out on someone’s Bebo page it can get a whole new life.

We need to constantly talk to our kids about appropriate behaviour on-line; none of us would like to think our kids are bullies but everyone has the propensity to poke fun and at any time even that can get out of hand.

As I have said before talk to your kids about their internet use, make sure they know the very real dangers of giving out personal information, posting pictures of themselves online and of how they conduct themselves in relation to others. We know the effects of bullying is immense, the effects of cyber-bullying could be much more far-reaching.

You can read what I have written before about social networking sites here . If you have any stories on cyber-bullying I would be very interested to hear.

1 comment:

Emma in Canada said...

Taylor had her first experience with this at the beginning of the summer. A fight with a friend turned into a nasty email sent to a dozen or so other friends saying what a horrbile person Taylor was. Not so much bullying I guess, just slander. As I am friends with the other girl's mum it was easy enough to call her up and discuss it. I asked that an email be sent out to all the kids who received the original stating that it was the wrong way to go about things.