A feature article in the New York Times makes some important points about the risks of young people on Facebook and other social networking sites.
While the article doesn’t offer too many solutions (except for more parental supervision) it might be the ‘wake-up’ call that parents need to know the dangers, to take computers and mobile phones out of bedrooms to a family room, and to be far more vigilant on the availability and use of technology by their teens.
The lawlessness of the Internet, its potential for casual, breathtaking cruelty, and its capacity to cloak a bully’s identity all present slippery new challenges to this transitional generation of analog parents. Desperate to protect their children, parents are floundering even as they scramble to catch up with the technological sophistication of the next generation. Like Marie, many parents turn to schools, only to be rebuffed because officials think they do not have the authority to intercede. Others may call the police, who set high bars to investigate. Contacting Web site administrators or Internet service providers can be a daunting, protracted process. When parents know the aggressor, some may contact that child’s parent, stumbling through an evolving etiquette in the landscape of social awkwardness. Going forward, they struggle with when and how to supervise their adolescents’ forays on the Internet.
…Online bullying can be more psychologically savage than schoolyard bullying. The Internet erases inhibitions, with adolescents often going further with slights online than in person.
…Overburdened school administrators and, increasingly, police officers who unravel juvenile cybercrimes, say it is almost impossible for them to monitor regulations imposed on teenagers. As with the boys who impersonated D.C. online, a district attorney’s spokeswoman said, “That monitoring is up to the parents.”