As my kids grow I worry about all the normal things that parents worry about, and bullying is one of those. The potential for this to effect them when they are online now. Schools and the institutions that support them have been researching ways to prevent bullying and have in recent years been turning their attention online as well as reported in Ars Technica. I hope that my kids are not exposed to this, but I worry that a focus on prevention at all costs will do more harm than good.
Zero tolerance and heavy penalties have shown to have bad consequences in other child protection areas with a teacher briefly sentenced to 40 years because of a pop-up storm, and good students being expelled for possesion of a butter knife. I do not trust government regulation to be rational on this subject, given the fear mongering that typically circulates about anything even slightly negtive that is Internet related. I also know that I will need to strike a balance between protecting my kids and giving them privacy.
Our kids need to be able to make mistakes, othewise they can’t grow. They also need a framework that allows them to develop a moral code of their own. There needs to be consequences for their actions both good and bad. Sometimes kids also need to face problems in their lives. As worrying as it can be for us parents, these challenges allow them to grow and define their character. Again it comes down to a balance between allowing them to experience and learn from life and preventing any lasting harm to them. There are as many bullies in adult life as in school and like most things, what we experience and learn as kids help prepare us to deal with the realities of adult life.
Bullying in any form is rarely an isolated act, there are reasons that it happens. If we prevent the expression in one way it will come out in another. The focus needs to be on detecting bullying quickly and dealing with it rationaly. Helping the bully overcome what is causing their actions and helping our kids to learn how to deal with it. Doing this online is no different from offline. Be aware and involved in what is going on in your childs life, and guiding them in skills and techniques to deal with the issues.
If you are worried about this, or you think your child is being bullied online I found a couple of good sites in my research.