With all the news stories about Twitter trolls being sentenced, with the Evening Standard reporting that the defendant’s lawyer said:

She is a victim of that, if nothing else – a victim of a lack of understanding of what this new technology can do and how powerful it is.

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John Carr, an advisor to the UK government and the UN on child online safety, highlights that the internet is part of everyday life and parents should “teach their children to apply the same values, attitudes and moral behaviour online as they do in the real world”.14

Here’s a few bits from my forthcoming book:

Troll: Someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages to an online community, with the intention of provoking other users to respond emotionally or disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Risk factors

Headlines such as “Schoolgirl hangs herself after she’s bullied by online trolls”29 attribute much to the power of social networking alone. Research has highlighted that the factors that lead to bullying online are typically the same as those offline. Although social media may be a catalyst in teen drama, causing it to be spread faster and wider, it’s unlikely to be the sole cause of suicide. To label it as such is unhelpful, possibly even dangerous, as it may encourage copycat behaviour from others who feel that they don’t get enough attention.

When she is older, I anticipate having some worries about loss or theft of her phone, the distraction it affords, and some social issues to do with exclusion and bullying on social media, e.g. Facebook. However, these don’t seem to beoverwhelming and would have to be faced in a non-digital world too, and the perspective.

(Parent, 3 to 5)

Those at risk from cyberbullying will tend to be similar to those at risk of offline bullying: they may be physically or mentally challenged, non-heterosexual, highly intelligent or “nerdy” (socially inept), and lacking in self-confidence; they may look or dress differently, or be rule-followers. They may not defend themselves, or may be unaware of the potential danger of bullying so don’t nip things in the bud, and they may have poor relationships with parents or caregivers. We have returned, then, to the need for parents to be aware of the characteristics of their own children, and the need to communicate, communicate, communicate!

….

In all of this, we have to remember that these are the worst- case scenarios, tragic in every case but usually more complex than the headlines would have us believe. Social networking may be a factor, but it’s not the only one. We need to accept this if we want society to look for the right solutions to the problem, particularly ensuring that our own children are not tempted to become bullies themselves, or to stand by while others do the bullying.

See details of the book here.

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