Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Change Begins With Education

By David Simms, Senior Contributor

The problem of cyber-harassment experienced throughout the world today can only be solved through educating our youth from a very young age. Just as kids are taught manners, right from wrong, and what the expectations are in interacting with others, so too should they learn how to behave on the internet. We learn from a very early age that if we break rules or act out badly in public, we will be reprimanded by adults, whether they be parents, teachers, law enforcement or other. Although there are still some who never seem to conform to societal rules, the vast majority of us do. Why does society not descend into chaos? Because there is a framework of rules and laws that we have all agreed to abide by. If there are no laws, human nature plunges into havoc. 

On the internet, there is still a lacking in proper rules and structure as to how people should conduct themselves. It is mostly for this reason that cyber-harassment has exploded to new levels. If we were to cross compare the acting out of bad behaviours in public to that happening on the internet, there is no comparison. The statistics show that relatively few people act out in public as opposed to what is seen online. This means that normal “good” people who behave themselves in public, allow themselves to unleash online. As a simplified example, consider a population of 100 people.  In public, 10 out of the hundred act out negatively which suggests there are 90 people who are good and behave themselves.  Now, on the internet looking at the same group of 100 people, 50 are acting out negatively.  Where did the other 40 bad behaviours come from when the same population was compared? Clearly it is a matter of constraint that is brought about by rules.  A certain large section of the population will act out if they are guaranteed not to be identified and can break the rules without punishment. 

This brings me back to the importance of raising children to not only behave in public but in the online virtual world of the internet. We cannot separate the two worlds and have different expectations in how we should behave. This brings me back to educating youngsters that it is not okay to hurt others regardless of whether they are offline or online.  When we can educate the youngest generations to treat the actual and virtual worlds the same where they are accountable for their actions in either one, it is my belief we will see a dramatic decrease in cyber harassment.