Monday, 17 January 2011


Cyberbullying has reared its ugly head again; this time it is parents targeting teachers with online abuse in social networking sites. This is regrettable.

Children are getting younger and younger in the use of online technology. According to a recent survey across Europe, children as young as 7 are accessing the Internet for a variety of purposes. Most 9-16 year olds are online for about 1 hour and a half a day and large number of them use the internet in the privacy of their bedrooms effortlessly becoming internet natives to the amazement of their presumably less internet savy parents. The internet provides us with wonderful tools to expand our creativity, learn and enjoy ourselves, but it is not without risks, both to children and adults. The Church and Society Council will be presenting a report on the ethical aspects of internet use to the General Assembly this coming May.

Much effort has been spent promoting digital awareness and skills for our children. Part of becoming digitally literate involves the responsible use of the communication facilities provided by the internet like for example, how to deal with inappropriate emails, how to report cyberbullying, how to set up a safe profile in social networking sites, and the importance of keeping private information private. All of this information is extremely valuable, however, the role of parents as role models in shaping the internet use of their children cannot be discounted. There is evidence to support that children’s use of the internet matches their parents use. This means that children might be influenced in their use of the internet by the way they see their parents use of the technology.

Parents have a big role to play in mediating the way their children use the internet; this might involve setting and enforcing rules for use, sharing with them initial experiences when embarking on social networking, giving tips on use, talking about their online experiences and monitoring usage if appropriate. All of this amounts to helping them become responsible cyber-citizens. The internet is very much woven into our every day activities, but this does not mean that we can use this technology for venting frustration and abusing others.

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