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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Equip children to deal with the web, threats and all

When a teenager takes their own life it's bloody awful... Noteworthy is that the bullying allegedly happened not on Twitter - a company in the press at the moment for their "lack of action" over abuse - but on ask.fm. 

No sooner is one platform sanitised than the kids move to other places to interact.

Instead of the sole focus being on platforms to deal with abuse we have to do more to equip young people to deal with the web.

That involves prevention, ie avoid getting into all-out flame wars in the first place; handling threats and negative comments; teaching how to hit the off or ignore button and take a break in the real world; and, in the case of substantive threats to life, taking up the issue with police.

It's easy to make a noise and say that social media platforms and web companies "must do more" but it's a rich and complex problem which cuts through the whole of modern society.

There is not one simple solution - like censoring/blocking sites that don't take a duty of care - as others will pop up.

I'm not defending the abusers in any way but part of the solution has to be to help the victims deal with abuse and ignore unsubstantiated threats; this goes against the current noise being made of late in the mainstream press - looking for the platforms, police and censorship to fix the problem - but the web as it is there will always be a way to upset someone online.

If we want to prevent the level of despair that leads to suicide we need to teach young people how to (a) limit their exposure to threats by the platforms they choose to use and the way they interact; and, (b) deal with them when they happen.


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