Cyber bullying can have devastating effects as events in the UK over the past few weeks have shown. But how do you protect your children online when web sites owners treat concerned parents with disregard? Do we need more parental controls for social media protection or do web site owners where abuse is carried out need to accept some kind of moral responsibility?
The howls of protest this past week or so have been almost deafening. And rightly so. A young girl took her own life as a result of cyber bullying. It’s a harrowing story, and sadly, not an isolated one. Ironically, a few days later the NSPCC, perhaps the UK’s foremost child protection charity, released a survey that showed one in five children in the UK have experienced cyber bullying.
Being bullied online can have a devastating effect. Many sufferers lack confidence, feel bad about themselves, have few friends and ultimately spend lots of time alone because their confidence is wrecked. And of course it can lead to a spiral of self-destruction where the ultimate outcome is one which we’re only too aware of and which parent’s fear most.
Parents take a stand against websites
Amid the sound and fury of the past weeks there has been a missing voice; that of the parent’s who try to protect their children from bullying. There was one notable exception, a newspaper account of a lady who tried to get the owners of a website, on which her daughter was subjected to awful threats, to bring the bully to account, or at least stop the bullying.
To say she had a mountain to climb is an understatement. The web site owners essentially disregarded her. Attempts to inform the police or get CEOPS, an organisation dedicated to stopping the online exploitation of children, to take action was futile. Eventually, she decided to hit the vulnerable spot and began targeting the web site’s advertisers.
Many companies responded positively and pulled their advertising from the web site or asked their agencies never to use it. The mother has had to doggedly plough on for months to get some kind of justice and even then she says it wasn’t forthcoming, simply because the web site owners seemed completely indifferent to her concerns.
Is online parental control becoming a necessity?
Social Media control: should a parent really have to go to such great lengths to protect their children online? Would the sort of bullying her daughter experienced be allowed to continue in the real world? Would a real-world institution turn its back on a child and mother because one of its members was threatening the child with awful abuse?
The online world may be a virtual mirror of the physical world but its rules are different. The bullies can behave with apparent impunity because they hide behind the curtain of digital anonymity.
We don’t want to use this blog to promote BullGuard because this is an important moral subject that transcends commercial interests. Added to that, there are lots of people at BullGuard with children who understand the anxiety and powerlessness that parents face when their child surfaces from the online realms, having had a bad experience.
But that said BullGuard does offer parental control and Facebook protection through some of its products. This parental control of social media at least puts the power back into the hands of those looking out for children. And until something happens that deems a child’s welfare to be more important than online commercial interests then it’s probably one of the best options we’ve got at the moment.
What are your experiences of cyber bullying? We’d really like to know. Please add your comments below.