Wednesday 28 June 2017

'Don't let kids derive all of their self-worth from social media' - cyberbullying expert

Cyberbullying research expert Dr Sameer Hinduja
Cyberbullying research expert Dr Sameer Hinduja
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Parents and teachers must lead by example and not let children's lives by ruled by computer algorithms, according to an expert on cyberbullying.

Parents and teachers must lead by example and not let children's lives by ruled by computer algorithms, according to an expert on cyberbullying.

Dr Sameer Hinduja, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Centre, said both parents and teachers had a duty to ensure that children in their care derive their happiness and self-esteem from activities and relationships in the 'real' world.

But they too could fall prey to the addictive power of computer algorithms and content that was specifically designed to get people hooked on social media, he said.

Skill

Yet instead of reinforcing the addiction with every dopamine-inducing 'like' on Facebook and other social media sites, they needed to ensure that children were doing things to feel good about themselves offline as well, he told the Irish Independent.

"I want educators to help children take stock and not derive all of their self-worth through technology," he said.

While technology itself was not to blame, allowing children to become mindless consumers of it was in no one's interest, he added.

"Technology is a huge positive and we need to convey that to children and get them to develop their skill sets in programming and coding," he said.

"We need them to be producers and creators and not just consumers."

He added that the same rules apply online as they do offline for teaching children not to succumb to peer pressure to engage in risky or self-destructive behaviour.

"The technology is relatively neutral," he said. "But it's a matter of kids not thinking things through.

"It can happen online or offline. They can get sucked in," he said of children bowing to peer pressure to take up smoking or engage in other harmful behaviour both in the real and virtual worlds.

His advice to parents and educators on cyberbullying and other online issues is available on www.cyberbullying.org.

Irish Independent

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