Tuesday, July 23, 2013
I have been working on cyberbullying and cyberharassment issues since 1995, before others in the field. In all those years we have seen one thread that runs through most cases - the more you understand digital and information literacy, the safer you are. Many young people offend others when they break the rules of netiquette (digital etiquette). They may be making a joke that is misunderstood online. They may send a message to the wrong person by accident that causes alarm. They may forget an essential word, like "not" in a statement like "you are [not] fat!" causing hurt. They share their passwords, create passwords that are easy to guess or leave their accounts open on a family or public computer. They don't protect their cellphones with passwords or keep them within sight at all times. Based upon our surveys and cases we handle, almost a third of cyberbullying cases could be avoided if we used better digital hygiene and thought before we clicked. Something to think about!
For years we have been surveying kids, tweens and teens and their digital preferences and practices. We have consistently heard that kids 10 and under are not uncomfortable with their parents monitoring their online communications. In fact, they have reported that they feel safer when their parents monitor their communications. And when we say "monitor" we are not talking about setting rules or placing the computer in a central location. We are talking about parents using monitoring software to track communications or checking their child's online accounts. These same tweens often object to their parents monitoring their communications when they reach 12 or 13 years of age. Why? Romance. Once they start having romantic interests, they want to hide their communications. Even if they don't have romantic interests themselves, their friends might be and they may be seeking to protect them from any parental scrutiny. What can we take away from this? When our children think that our monitoring their behavior comes from our wanting to keep them safe, instead of spying on their love life, they are happy to let us do our job. But if you look more like a peeping tom instead of a caring parent, all bets are off.