Can children manage their own online presence? Cyber bullying and the effects.

Society today has seen a huge shift in chosen modes of communication. People live their lives behind the safety of a computer screen, adopting any character they wish. Social media has diminished the art of conversation and expression, monopolising young children’s time to ensure that they are up to date with the latest ‘gossip’ on their timeline.  A huge number of people become completely reliant on Facebook, one websites claims.

“350 million users suffer from Facebook addiction syndrome”

However, adults are not the real worry; it is the increasing number of young children that are taking to social media sites, perhaps in bid to make new friends or innocently trying to fit in. The unforgiving culture of young children is to involve themselves in the latest trends or be labelled as ‘uncool’.  The question in hand is;

Is it ethically correct and safe for a child to make themselves so overtly available to the world via social media?

“50% of children aged between 12 – 17 use social media every day”

This huge reliance on a network of communication somewhat disregards the filter of common decency. Cyber Bullying is on the up, every day children are being subjected to hateful, malicious behaviour that perhaps in reality face to face would never have occurred.

Cyber Bullying is defined as;

“Cyber bullying is when a person or a group of people uses the internet, mobile phones, online games or any other kind of digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else”

Every day children are being affected by cyber bulling hate, 39% of social network users have been cyber bullied in some way. The real issue in hand is the argument of whether children are mature enough to actually use social media.  Bullies will always exist be it in the playground at school or the confinements of online I don’t dispute that. However the levels of cruelty and freedom to speak with very little or no figure of authority to stand in is the issue of online torment. Children will sit behind their computer screen and immediately have a new found sense of confidence, with very little notion to recognise the consequences.

The hate from selfish, online teen monsters has had the horrific ability to make others feel completely alone in the world. The fear of getting home every evening and reading disgusting insults and threats has driven people to take their own lives.

Looking at Amanda Todd an innocent young girl faced with a living hell from the age of 12, her life made horrific by classmates and one malicious individual. One naïve mistake, haunted her for years after one sadistic male created a profile of private images that she had opened herself up to in a spout of innocent fun with friends over webcam. In a sick and twisted attempt to ruin her lives the now confirmed paedophile tracked down her new class mates time after time as she hopped from school to school in a bid to escape her nightmare.

The question in hand is did the bullies that taunted her every day, jumping on the bandwagon thinking it’s funny, did they truly think that it made them “cool”?

“I hope she see’s this and kills herself”

Do you think that they stopped to consider that she might actually listen?

Before long the trauma became too much, she took her life, with one final cry for help days before she told her story in a video uploaded to YouTube, highlighting the nightmare she was living. To this day you can still Google her name and see SICK, DISGUSTING formulated images making light of the situation. The bully lives on.

In my opinion, be it a small percentage or not, the bullies that roam free on social media should be enough to make the assumption that children are not ready for the world of social media. The bullies are evident enough but also the victims that are subjected to this yet don’t have the strength and confidence to report the torture.

Parents who’s soul purpose in life is to protect their children, cannot even fathom the damage social media is doing because of lack of education. They cannot understand the dangers of such accessibility and lack of privacy and control. Albeit that the social media sites claim that they are aware and forcefully taking action to stop these instances from occurring. But Amanda Todd never received any help. Her story was in fact reported but Facebook failed, too little too late. The children of our generation and years to come deserve the right to be protected and the standard of social media today is just the beginning.

So what do you think, are children mature enough to use social media? Does the age of 12 -17 mean you know how to correctly manage yourself online? And what changes need to be made?

Ellie Newton


20 thoughts on “Can children manage their own online presence? Cyber bullying and the effects.

  1. Children between 12-17 are not mature enough to manage these these sites, i believe the age limit should be raised and that social media sites need to take more responsibility for what happens.

  2. Left totally to their own devices I don’t think most 12 year olds have the maturity to self manage their use of social media. How far into the 12-17 year age group this applies I am not sure and is probably as dependant upon their family background/support as it is on how and where they have learnt about social media – from peers or in a more formal educational environment. Searching questions and in my opinion something that should be regulated. How is a much tougher question to answer especially when the age group your are discssing are ‘ready’ in their opinion to break away from adult guidance.

    I am sure there are many heartbreaking real life stories, each one that is prevented by a new level of regulation surely makes the work of putting regulation in place SO worthwhile.

  3. Parent need to take more resposibility for their children and monitor the time their children spend on facebook etc. Cybor bullying needs to be stopped!! Unfortunately the bullies will always be there. Also the generation of today will learn from their parents as they spend time on social media sites and their children do the same so the next generation will know no different
    Something needs to be done but unfortunately no one has the answer!!!

  4. No Children are not mature enough to use social Media at the age off 12-17,
    The age should be raised.And social media to do more Checks.

  5. I agree, children of this age are not ready to manage their own accounts on these sites. I do think though that parents have to take a LOT more responsibility for what happens on these sites, from both sides. It’s too easy to let your kids lock themselves away in their room and not know what they are up to.

  6. Because of the nature of the internet and its freedom in contemporary society, it is far too easy for young children to gain access to inappropriate content, and although its hard to control, i believe that to a certain extent the parents should hold some responsibility in limiting their child’s access to these sights.

    As for Cyber bullying, this issue is terribly underrated and it is crucial that more attention is brought to it and more is done about it. I would even go as far as saying its about time the government got involved in providing some legal safety for the victims.

  7. Imagine standing in the middle of the Albert Hall, all on your own, with the audience making comments about you that you are not aware of. Imagine that you are aged 12-17 in such a situation, and then someone tells you about some of those comments. This is the world of the socail media, but expanded world wide, where others can make any comment they like about anyone else. Monitoring must be done by the media providers themselves, and parents involved too. Although the technological gap between the generations adds another layer of difficulty. This is happening to youngsters when they are at the most vulnerable and sensitive stage of their development, and it requires acting upon.

  8. I agree that children between 12-17 are not mature enough to be on social media websites. However there is always the angle that children at 16-17 are legally old enough to smoke, get married, do the lottery and start driving how can we then say that children aren’t mature enough then. I definately think that parental responsibility has a part to play too, children shouldn’t be left to their own devices with the parents not knowing what or who they are talking to.
    The social media sites also need to do more, stand up to the cyber bullies and get the government involved to introduce penalties/punishments for the bullies and help for the victims.

  9. Totally agree that nobody up to the age of 17 are not mature enough to handle all situations that can occour on these social sites. Parents should have full sight of what is happening with their children so they can react sooner rather than later. The social media websites should also monitor more closely what is happening.

  10. Pauline
    Children between the ages of 12 – 17 are not mature enough to realise the consequecies of nasty comments and children receiving these messages are not mature enough to realise that telling an adult is the best possible solution. Parents need to take more responsibilty for their children on line and social networking sites should have more control over what is allowed to be written and published.

  11. I agree, not all children up to the age of 17 are mature enough to responsibly manage there own privacy on an online presence, or be respectful to the sites of others, (causing bully, peer pressure etc). The exposure is huge, which allows problems to occur, individuals need to realise that the risks can be broad including pedophiles.

  12. Thankyou for your engagament it is very much appreciated. You all make very interesting points and are aware of the urgency of addressing this problem. However some of you are right in saying that education and awareness is at the root of this problem.

    @Fran @Julie you both make very valid points that the problem appears to derive from methods of parenting and where the knowledge of Social media extends from. Whether its is from the safe confinements of education/ schooling or socialised within the family at home. It is perhaps correct to suggest that parents who are active users of social media generally have children who are brought up on culture and have children who have Facebook pages from a very young age, would you agree? @Fran your statement that it is the parents responsibilty is very viable. It is essential for parents to initally be aware of the damages of social media. What do you suggest needs tobe done in terms of educating them?

    @Paul your recognition of the technologial gap is crucial. For many parents it is unimagineable that their precious children have access and freedom within such dangerous, damaging networks. In your opinion who is to blame for the lack of education, is it the parents responsbility to research these sites? Should schools organise parent meets to make them aware of the dangers or should the social media sites address the parent audience and educate them directly?

    @Kelly the angle you address; “that children at 16-17 are legally old enough to smoke, get married, do the lottery and start driving how can we then say that children aren’t mature enough then” is a very valid point. Parents find it difficult enough to stop their daughters from wearing too shorter skirts or wanting the latest mobile let alone try and restrict their use of social media. What do you suggest is the best way to inform children of the dangers, enough to out weigh their need to be included and whos responsbility does it boil down to?

    My question to everyone is do you feel that this problem can ever be conquered? and how? I feel that the only way to make any progress in making 12-17 year olds safer online is to draw together from several angles. Social media must take more responsibilty and forcefully take action to delete comments and profiles. Government and education system must make it a priority to educate both children AND parents of the dangers and in particular teach parents the general workings of a social media sites so they can easily monitor their childrens pages.

    Thankyou again for your comments


  13. Because social networking is still comparatively new, its difficult to really speak on its long-term effects, although its possible to extrapolate a certain amount from the effect TV and video games have had on the development of children .

    In my experiance participation for long periods of time can have a negative effect on basic cognitive processes. Overuse can have a negative impact on attention skills.
    The content of the information can have an effect on emotions and behaviour.

    I agree with @Melisa kids could be more likely to engage in bullying over the Web because it’s harder to have empathy for your victim when you’re not face-to-face with him or her and there is generally no audience to intervene or put a stop to it.
    Adults can’t overhear or witness what’s happening when the perpetrator is along in his or her room in front of a computer.

    Given all this, I think its a parents responsibilty to keep a close eye on their childrens use of social media during the early teen years in particular. Too much privacy and freedom is given in this regard. A Facebook account or personal cell phone is not an inalienable right. Parents should have a responsibility to monitor children’s access, including passwords, and their interactions.

    • Thank you for your comment you raise some very interesting points. I agree that the culture of technology has shifted the way in which children communicate. It is now socially acceptable for a 7 year old to own a mobile, and believe it or not they are actually communicating with their friends. The things portrayed as ‘safe’ and a ‘must –have’ for children have far advanced from even 10 years ago. Do you feel there are ways to stop these values being adopted? Or is it more of a case of reinventing the protection and education for children in terms of social media sites etc.? Is it the government’s responsibility?

      • It’s up to parents to control these new values adopted and appreciate their main responsibility lies with their children above all other commitments.

        Having a mobile phone should positively benefit a child’s life.
        Parents should all identify that responsibility and maturity are the factors to consider not their age when they decide if their child is ready for a mobile phone. If a child demonstrates both – by checking in with you at appointed times, following your rules, adhering to school guidelines, and handling the phone sensibly – then he or she may be ready. There are very few public phones anymore. If there’s an emergency with the help of a mobile phone a child can seek help immediately. Parents can still pass along their values by modelling tech habits they want their kids to pick up – without missing that emergency call.

        Famigo Sandbox is a tool used to lock android phones so that the young ones can’t access objectionable content online. It blocks texts, in app purchases, and keeps children off the internet. It also recommends good, family friendly apps and has a cool wishlist feature so that children can tell their parents what apps they want without having the ability to buy them. That way parents can buy a smart phone for their children and know they’ll be safe.

        It would be difficult and harsh for parents to alienate their children and not offer the norm to them. With control and ensuring they are in constant communication they can help reduce or prevent cyber bullying. The government can’t be accountable for a parents incompetence.

  14. This is a great factual post to back up the opinion piece on the same topic. Thank you for directing me towards it.

  15. In the ever faster developing world, it is just a matter of schools ensuring this subject is discussed from an early age over and over just like drink awareness or sex education, putting emphasis on the dangers and repercussions of posting private information and the result of your actions on the internet.

  16. @Maniche Tailor Thank you for your comment; this is a very interesting point. Perhaps you are right that it is more dependent on maturity than age. Of course, this is reliant on a trust bond with your child and the faith that they will not be influenced by peers. It is difficult at such an influential stage to truly gauge a young child’s morals and values but also their ability to stand their ground. Is this something that can be risked?
    I appreciate your insight into ‘Famigo Sandbox’ I wasn’t aware that this tool existed. It is worrying that this was not brought to my attention when researching, which no doubt echoes parents lack of knowledge. It is app’s like this that need to be brought to media attention as a method of combatting cyber-bullying.

  17. Yeah, It’s a big problem now a days. But i believe every problem has a great solutions. Yeah, All of you are right. There is a good solution to parenting online to keep our child safe from such problem. It is a software called PG Guard. I have mentioned it’s features following.

    -PG guard is a simple to use service that safeguards children on facebook.
    -PG guard safeguards children regardless of devices they use or their location.
    -PG guard constantly monitors your child’s entire social environment.
    -PG guard uses unique artificial intelligence algorithms to profile each user.
    -Each social interaction is analyzed according to the profiles of the users involved.
    -PG guard informs parents of suspicious interactions in child’s social environment.
    -PG guard allows parents to educate, encourage and set boundaries online.

    for more details you can visit here

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