Recent revelations on the reporting of cyberbullying are quite alarming. Online bullying of young people is more common and more harmful than many have realised.
Young people of the 21st century have been born into a technological age, foreign to their parents and grandparents. Many adults have no real idea of what children know and understand about devices and applications. Neither do they fully grasp the habits and the extent of devices used by young people.
Devices are often touted for the benefits they offer students through access to online texts, encyclopaedic information and so on. Distributors of technology (and educators) constantly extol the virtues of technological usage as offering significant benefits to students. Computers and iPads are promoted as assisting in both research and document preparation. Clever marketing ensures that parental expenditure on computers and iPads is at the top of what used to be the traditional school booklist.
Schooling without computers, iPads and even iPhones is said to be impossible. In actuality, many young people are far more interested in devices for the games, entertainment and non educational applications they offer. A casual scroll through the online store confirms that applications supporting entertainment are mushrooming at an exponential rate.
Careful checking on students using technology during the school day will confirm how quickly many switch from educational to entertainment mode. Rather than supporting their learning, devices become a distraction.
Students use these tools to share with each other through email accounts, on facebook, instagram and other applications. Sadly, these channels of communication are increasingly used to bully young people, who become online victims of abuse. Many children, possibly because they are trusting, share far too much by way of an intimate and personal nature when online.
Online bullying and coercion are often perpetrated on young people under the noses of parents and other adults, who are not aware of what is going on.
Two key reasons for adult ignorance come to mind. The first is lack of awareness. Victoria Laurie (Parents ‘not ready’ for digital oversight, Australian, 9.7.18) wrote that “ … children … are capable of accessing digital content on mobile phones and tablets … their parents are often totally unprepared for managing their … digital future.”
Secondly, children who may be the butt of online bullying, are reluctant to discuss this with parents or adults. Instead, they either keep silent or share their concerns with peers. Children must be encouraged to unburden their souls and adults must become aware of these issues and be supportive without being too distrusting and judgemental.