I’ll start by stating that I’m not a parent. I know that saying so
will invalidate my opinion in the eyes of some. Naturally it doesn’t
stop me from having an opinion.
Not a day goes by that we don’t hear about internet related
harassment and crimes committed against, and frequently by,
There are actually strong arguments as to whether or not the
magnitude of the problem as reported in the mainstream media is, in
fact, as large as they portray it. Some say that child predation is
significantly less than you might come to believe by watching night
time news programs. Some say it’s worse. Some will tell you that
bullying and intimidation has grown by leaps and bounds as the internet
has enabled a level of anonymity accessible to all – children
I’m not going to argue the numbers one way or the other.
But as someone who was bullied in school I can only shudder at what
my life would have been like had that technology been accessible to my
And it leads me to ask: where are the parents?
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I think that in truth, we’ve all experienced it to some degree,
either as we were growing up, or as we watch the world around us:
children can be brutal; particularly to one another. I’m not saying
that to be judgmental; in fact I think it’s a natural part of growing
up and growing into adulthood.
I’m also not saying it’s acceptable to allow it to continue.
But I see it almost every day. Questions and comments that are
clearly from children and are the result of being intimidated, being
harassed, or being bullied. Or worse, the brazen questions and comments
from those children who are, or who are trying to be, the bully.
I would normally expect that this is where parents come in –
teaching children the difference between right and wrong. And yet it
appears that too many simply don’t.
The single most frustrating reaction is “my child would never do
More often than you think, your child would.
I’m not saying that there aren’t great and trustworthy kids out
there, there absolutely are. In many ways it’s unfortunate that they
have to come under this kind of suspicion because of “the others”. But
the fact is you cannot assume your child is one of the
trustworthy ones. That assumption is all too often wrong.
I’ll be in the audience for a seminar by a local
non-profit next month, “Safe Surfing: Protecting Your Kids Online”.
In reviewing the materials, though, one thing becomes clear: there’s
one thing that parents can – no, must – do to keep
their kids safe:
Or as I might put it: be the parent.
Yes, you will have to learn about the technologies that your child
is exposed to and is using.
Yes, it will make you and your child uncomfortable at times. But
these are important lessons to be learned.
Yes, it’s work.
It doesn’t have to be confrontational; in fact one of the most
important things you can do is establish a relationship of trust where
both you and your child can be open and honest when discussing these
And no, I have no delusions that this is somehow easy.
But it is necessary.
Rather than duplicate the work of others, I’m going to recommend
that if you’re a parent you read this article: Internet Safety: How to Protect Your Child from Cyber
Bullying from my friends out at Scambusters.org.
Seven specific tips that, quite honestly, I couldn’t put any better
And finally, if you suspect that your child might be the
bully – please don’t ignore it.
Be the parent.