In a world of email and e-commerce, it’s enough to make you wonder exactly what the “E” stands for. The e is for electronic and this new form of communication has modernized western civilization, and there’s another new term with which parents need to be familiar; e Safety. This is an umbrella term which refers to staying safe while engaged with the World Wide Web. However, this term is especially important for the parents of teens, because the threat of cyber bullying is a fatal problem.
Adequate Internet Safety for Kids
Twenty years ago, the Internet was in its infant stages and it really posed no threats to anyone. Now people have instant access to movies and free music at the click of a button. People are also free to communicate with one another faster than ever before, but the web has also posed to problems for parents to face. When most people hear the term internet safety for kids, they probably envision something to prevent under aged web surfers from accessing inappropriate sites. There are a lot of adult sites on the web which children as young as four can easily access, but there’s s more deadly threat than nude pictures lurking online. In order for parents to truly keep their kids safe from all online threats they must first know what’s putting their children at risk. For most children the worst threat they will face online is a cyberbully. These mean spirited children and adults are far more dangerous than bullies of the past, because they can torment victims from the privacy of home. Many of these culprits even make terrible comments online that would probably never say to the victim in person. This may seem like harmless fun, but the consequences can and have been very deadly.
Knowing How to Keep kids Safe
The numbers of children being bullied in the UK is staggering. More than 45% of children interviewed said that they had been bullied at least once before they turned 18 years of age. These unfortunate individuals weren’t tormented as badly as the 26% of teenagers who said they were bullied every day while in public school. Nearly half of the children interviewed said they were bullied for something as trivial as their clothes, appearance and body shape. This seems to be an issue that affects all modern countries as overweight children in Canada, the US and Australia all said they were more likely to be teased than children of an average weight. Perhaps this is why the term “big bully” has become so prominent in school yards, because these overweight children will typically be much larger and stronger than their peers when they reach their teenage years. The overweight child who was bullied in elementary school may come back to exact revenge upon fellow students, because more than half of children who bully admit to having been bullied at some point. Perhaps addressing elementary school name calling can help to eliminate bullying in the latter years. If this information would have been available sooner, perhaps the death of UK teenager Hannah Smith could have been avoided.
E Safety for Kids
E safety for adults typically means keeping their personal information safe from online thieves and computer hackers. Identity theft is on the rise and using a credit card online greatly increases an adult’s chances of experiencing an issue. However, e safety for children typically means keeping them safe from other children online. Just as traditional bullies torture children in the school yard, online bullies send threats and antagonistic comments across the web. Unfortunately, the constant barrage of hurtful insults and immature prodding sometimes leads the bullied teen to commit suicide. This was the case with 14 year old online socialite Hannah Smith of London. Like most modern teenagers, Hannah enjoyed spending lots of time online. Like most teens, she spent a great deal of that time on social media sites where she could make new friends. Unfortunately, Hannah encountered an online troll which is a term for a miserable individual who’s looking to make others just as unhappy. Initially, Hannah visited the social media site Ask.com looking for advice on the treatment of eczema. Instead, she encountered several bullies who tormented her and even encouraged her to take her own life.
The True Scope of Cyberbullying
Unfortunately for Hannah’s family, the controversy surrounding her death is still lingering. The social media site Ask.fm came under serious criticism following the death of the bullied teen, but the site’s administrators are firing back with more disturbing information. The site allows trolls to anonymously send messages, permitting these cowards to antagonize victims without revealing their identities. This practice led many people to question Ask.fm’s practices, and the site launched its own investigation into Hanna’s death. According to Ask.fm officials, the 98% of the worst messages were sent from the same IP address as Hannah’s personal computer. If this is true, than it suggests that Hannah was actually bullying herself online, or even worse, someone in her family was providing the cruel comments and remarks Hannah received were sent from within her home.
Hannah’s father had fired back at Ask.fm for releasing this information, saying they’re still responsible for the awful comments she received from others. If Hannah Smith truly did receive the majority of the trolling messages from her own home, it raises more questions about suicidal teens than it answers. Was the troubled teenager schizophrenic, or were the messages sent from older sister Jo? Did one or both of her parents send the messages or is Ask.fm lying to cover its tracks? Either way, the negative media from the story is forcing parliament to take actions against online bullies.
Government Sanctioned E Safety
There are already laws in place to protect online shoppers and retailers. Fortunately, our children now receive protection while online as well. This progressive move is good news for the parents of teens, but it should have been done long ago. It’s infuriating when the government hesitates to act when 10% of interviewed teens admit to attempting suicide as a result of bullying. While many of these teens are unsuccessful in their attempts, the thought of one in ten children choosing death over bullying is spellbinding. Fortunately, there is finally legislation that allows online predators to be prosecuted. The cyberbullying protection law has made it illegal for one individual to stalk, and harass others online. Other laws have also been passed on a state and federal level. This step in the right direction gives law enforcement the ability to pursue online trolls and the punishments consist of more than a mere slap on the wrist. According to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, online bullies can face up to two years in jail for their cowardly acts. This action quadruples the previous maximum sentence of six months, but is it really enough for people who have contributed to the deaths of others?
Understanding Teen Suicide and E Safety
In the UK and Wales, a teenager attempts suicide every twenty minutes. Many of these teens go on to survive this attempt, but more than 30% will try to take their own lives again. This is largely due to the belief that nothing can or should be done about suicidal teens. One dangerous myth about suicidal children is that they’re only seeking attention on their first attempt. However, too many children go on to take their own lives in second and third attempts after being bullied. Another dangerous myth is the belief that suicidal teens are determined to die so they can’t be helped. What suicidal teens want is relief from the pain they feel. This relief can come in many forms, but a lot of young people see death as the only way out. However, this is typically after months of reaching out for help. Warning signs for a teenager include an obsession with death, a sudden lack of interest in life and of course, previous suicide attempts.
Defeating Apathy About Bullying
Perhaps people wouldn’t be so callous towards the subject of bullying if they truly understood the long term ramifications. For instance, 56% of children said bullying has affected their studies. The UK is home to some of the most educated people and institutions of higher learning on earth. This is why it’s so hard to imagine our citizens tolerating such an obvious hindrance to learning. Unfortunately, the disturbing numbers associated with bullying don’t stop there. An astounding 83% of students said bullying has affected their self-esteem. Self image is particularly fragile during the teenage years and this shocking revelation helps to further define the relationship between bullying and suicide.
A child whose self esteem is already low may be pushed past the edge by the prodding of others. Perhaps this is why more than half the students said the bully support being offered at their schools was inadequate. This is one of the biggest factors in the perpetuation of this problem, because students won’t report bullying if they feel nothing is going to be done about it. Instead, these students find other ways to vent their frustration, like the 30% of students who go on to mutilate and hurt themselves. This is another serious warning sign, because self hurting gradually gets worse. As the teen loses the fear of hurting, him or herself, suicide becomes easier to think about and then commit. This was the case with Amanda Todd, a tenth grade Canadian girl who displayed multiple symptoms of being suicidal before taking her own life.
Amanda Todd actually posted a YouTube video where she expressed the sadness she felt after being bullied online and in person. Previous to this cry for help, she attempted suicide by drinking bleach, and then again by overdosing. She also cut herself and posted a picture of her heavily mutilated arm online. The cry for help, self-mutilation and previous suicide attempts got the proper responses from her family and she was in counseling when she ended it all. She was taking medication for depression and anxiety, and her parents thought she was recovering. However, the damage done by the bullies was too much for Amanda to overcome. This case proves that the only way to protect our children is to keep them from being bullied in the first place. Cyberbullying laws punish the antagonist, but they do nothing to bring back children like Amanda. Parents must be vigilant and keep their children safe from online threats.