Thursday, September 18, 2014

Parental Responsibility in Raising Responsible Internet Users

By: David Simms, Senior Contributor

The internet has exploded with bullying, harassment, and other hate activity that has taken the lives of many and effectively crippled the lives of so many more. What has created such a havoc-ridden climate?  Small children are mostly influenced, whether they believe it or not, by the adults in their lives. From them they learn manners, right from wrong, and how to interact with the world. They are formed by watching what adults do and how they treat others. This has been going on since the beginning of time and is why parenting is such a critical responsibility accountable not only to the family unit but to all those we come in contact with throughout life. It can be monumentally confusing to a child when they witness their parent or other respected adult, treat others harshly and with disrespect especially if they are not accustomed to this. It only takes one event to rock the sensitive and impressionable reality of a child. Children can intrinsically sense something wrong about inconsistent behaviours they observe. Unfortunately, if they are exposed to this on a regular basis, their own inner compass of right and wrong can be overridden. This is usually the beginning of acting out in the same manner they have seen in adults and is typically reinforced by other children they interact with at school and may lead to physical bullying others. Realistically though, most children do not become playground bullies because most of us shy away from physical aggression. 

However, the internet lends itself as an easy platform on which to release passive aggression on others. It is this reason it has become so dangerous.  Children, and adults, who would normally never be involved in physical confrontation, become the most aggressive and cruel creatures when online. This is seeded in the experiences they had, and the observations they made, when a younger age.  It is also coupled with the fact that the internet world is perceived as detached, almost as a fantasy game where people, feelings, and lives are not real. This makes for a dangerous recipe and outlet for aggression and harm to others.

As adults raising children in the computer age, there is a new and unexpected responsibility incurred. We must educate children from a very young age that the online world is a very real place where people can be harmed.  Children must be made to understand that their actions online can hurt and destroy others and that it is not acceptable, just as it is not acceptable to harm others in the street. They must know there are rules to abide by that cannot be broken and that they will be held accountable for what they do online. Adults must be more aware of their own actions in front of children.  It is only in these ways that positive change can occur and a true difference can be made.