The international outpouring of shock, disbelief and grief at Amanda Todd’s death tells us much about how we use social media to connect and how little we understand the consequences of using it.
It’s clear the worldwide web has opened a Pandora’s Box of issues among our young people, but when adults freely give up their privacy to a company that harvests their personal details for profit, it’s hard to expect children to know any better.
This is not a case for shutting down the Internet – as impossible a task as stopping the tides – for the instant knowledge and communication it offers is a huge benefit. Nor is it a call to put more rules or laws in place to stop pornography, bullying, the distribution of hate messages and other horrible attributes of anonymous, instant and pervasive communication.
Anti-bullying, child pornography and hate laws backed by enforcement obviously need to be in place but the problem of child victimization isn’t easily stopped. The more walls that are erected, the more fun the challenge is for hackers and haters, the malware makers, the virus-mongers, the attention-seekers and the sexually perverse. It’s an endless game of whack-a-mole, with solutions always just out of reach and more children at risk every day.
It’s better to inoculate children against victimization so they can be more proactive about their own safety. Get them at school, in the home, at church and in the community centre. Children as young as five need to know how the Internet works. They need to know what risky behaviour is and the consequences of it. They need to know when online teasing becomes bullying, the difference between strangers and friends; and who to go to if they are being bullied.
– Black Press