Gone are the days when evenings, weekends, and school holidays acted as a safe haven from bullying peers and fellow school students. Now that social media activity is rife among (even primary) school children, it is more important than ever to be vigilant when it comes to monitoring their online activity.
In 2015, Britain dropped out of the proposed EU law to increase the age of consent for creating social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram, to 16. This means that thousands of young teenagers using smartphones and tablets could be setting up social media accounts to share information, pictures, and contact details online.
Social media certainly has its perks, including strengthening and creating friendships, finding likeminded people to discuss hobbies and interests with, and even to discuss and collaborate on schoolwork like group projects. It enables teens to stay connected and easily make plans or talk with friends whenever they want, and it acts as a platform to stay in touch with family or friends who live far away.
Despite the benefits, social media can also distract from schoolwork and contribute to lower face-to-face interaction. Perhaps more seriously, it creates countless opportunities for bullies to take advantage of, including photo-sharing apps, group chats, even anonymity and disguises in the form of fake profiles.
Experts claim that cyberbullying, which can include name calling, rumour-spreading, and sharing doctored images, severely impacts young peoples’ lives. Online bullying is easy to go unnoticed, unlike physical violence and, in extreme cases, it can lead to self-harm or suicide.
The 2013 CyberBullying Survey by UK anti-bullying charity revealed that 70% of young people have been cyber-bullied yet only 55% of victims report the incidents. As children become more tech-savvy and are given access to an infinite online world, it is more important than ever to find ways of monitoring risks like cyber bullying and predatory strangers.