Cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on children and teenagers. Social media platforms are most often used, and in the case of Snapchat content can be posted then 'disappear' after going viral through a school community.
We spoke with Constable Tom at our local 'Coffee with a Cop' day. "I've seen a few blackmail-type cases come through, carried out on Snapchat. People also pretend to be somebody else - so they will be abusing somebody online but masquerading as a different person. The victim usually knows who they are."
According to the Ministry of Justice, harmful digital communications include when someone uses the internet, email, apps, social media or mobile phones to send or publish threatening or offensive material and messages, spread damaging or degrading rumours, or to publish online invasive or distressing photographs or videos. The 'Harmful Digital Communications Act' includes a range of measures to prevent and reduce the impact of such actions, with numbers of prosecutions on the increase since the establishment of the act in 2015. Globally, countries are updating laws to deal with harm from digital technologies and the impact on victims.
The consequences for those casually sharing content can be significant, with 1,000 young people charged earlier this year in Denmark for sharing a sexually explicit video through Facebook Messenger. There's an interesting perspective on this case by Lykke Moller Kristensen; "First, we gave them a phone and the opportunity to do whatever they wanted with it — and then we punished them. Everyone agrees that the young people deserve to be punished, and they are being called thoughtless brats — the same kids from a generation that a few years ago were being called digital natives — but what role did the adult generation play in this situation? What did we miss? What’s the connection?"
Kristensen works with children and teenagers. He knows that the amount of behaviour that oversteps boundaries and the sharing of illegal images and video is enormous, and that it affects many young people in one form or another every day. He calls it a symptom of a social media culture we have created; "not by being there ourselves, even though this generation of parents spends a lot of our own free time on social media. But by not being there. Not being present and up-to-date enough when it comes to mobile phones, social media, online gaming and apps. And even though studies show that children and teenagers really would like to know the rules and talk with us about the things that are worrying them, we still take it for granted that kids can figure things out for themselves when it comes to their life on social media."
Kristensen contends that 10 years of unsupervised play on smartphones, tablets, and computers has been something of an experiment for this generation, with unintended consequences.
The purpose of Family Zone is to keep young people safe online, and our Partner School Program offers a solution that protects all devices, including smartphones, both on and off the school network. If you would like more information on how this solution could work for your school community, contact our team for more information.