So, this may be my most impassioned article yet, and not for the reasons you may think. I believe the narrow focus on cyber bullying as a specific issue is one of the greatest mistakes we are making.
Bullying online is far less common than bullying face-to-face (4 percent online versus 23 percent face-to-face, Kids online survey 2013) yet it is receiving more attention and more funding than general bullying.
It still remains that the act of bullying is the issue; lack of empathy meeting lack of self esteem and assertiveness – whatever that means.
Research states that nearly 86 percent of cyber bullying stems from school-based bullying, so to imply it is a separate issue is frustrating.
I recently asked a group of 14-year-olds to list the social media sites they use in which they can engage with others. They listed 26. We can’t possibly learn all about these sites, or the new sites coming around the corner, but we can build assertive children, with strong self-esteem and good social and life skills to deal with conflict or bullying. If they can deal with it face-to-face, online is much less of an issue. Equally, those who are taught to think of others - educated in our most important of social emotions, empathy - they will think twice before putting things online.
Online activity should be monitored, and boundaries placed on usage. As always, education and parental guidance and communication is key. Young people can access social media all of the time, just like they encounter people face-to-face all of the time. They need to understand about the concept that control is lost on anything placed online, that anonymity is a misnomer on social media and that the impact of all words and photos online can be extremely damaging.