Due to its sensational nature, the spectre of unscrupulous adults preying upon and sexually exploiting youth online gets a lot of media attention. Although this does happen, sensational headlines do not help us understand the nature and true extent of the problem or how to deal with it effectively.

As adults, we want to foster resilience in young people, starting when they’re young. This can be done by teaching them how to handle harassing messages or requests that make them feel uncomfortable – on the Internet or in the schoolyard – and, as they get older, by teaching them how to spot and respond to emotional manipulation. The good news is that most teens are effectively handling online requests from strangers – the bigger challenge is helping them handle sexual advances from people they know.

For most youth, the Internet is all about socializing, and while most of these social interactions are positive, increasing numbers of kids are using the technology to intimidate and harass others – a phenomenon known as cyberbullying.

We don’t always hear the clock ticking when we’re online and young people are no exception. Between doing research for homework, talking with friends, updating social networking pages and playing games, it’s easy to see how kids and teens might lose track of time. Excessive Internet use, however, can negatively affect young people’s schoolwork, health and social lives.

It’s important to note that there is no single profile of a child who bullies. While some fit the traditional image of someone who is generally aggressive and has poor impulse control, others may be very sensitive to social nuances and are able to use that understanding against their targets.[1]

Verbal or emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of bullying online. Social bullying, another pervasive form – particularly with girls – includes social exclusion and spreading gossip and rumours.

Cyberbullying is everyone’s business and the best response is a pro-active or preventative one. From the outset, we can reduce the risks associated with internet use if we engage in an open discussion with our children about their online activities and set up rules that will grow along with them. Cyberbullying is strongly connected with moral disengagement – the ways we can fool ourselves into thinking it’s all right to do something we know is wrong or to not do something we know is right – so activating kids’ empathy and moral judgment is a key aspect of preventing it.

Digital Issues
Internet and mobile communications technologies offer a wealth of opportunities for fun, learning, and exploration. They also present parents and teachers with a host of concerns and worries. In this section, you can find resources on how to tackle these issues in a positive way.
Privacy Pirates

This tutorial introduces children, ages 7-9, to the concept of online privacy and teaches them to distinguish between information that is appropriate to give out and information better kept private – and to recognize how this may change in different contexts.

Someone encountering the Internet for the first time might be forgiven for assuming it was created specifically for teenagers. Indeed, the Internet could reasonably be said to have been aging backwards since its birth – the domain first of scientists and the military, then of university students in the 1990s and now children and teenagers. 

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