Friday 20 September 2019

Ian O'Doherty: 'Stop protecting kids from social media - prepare them for it'

Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

As the new school year kicks off, parents are facing plenty of hassles they could easily live without.

The cost of books and uniforms are old reliables, of course.

This year also seems to have seen more scrutiny of the oxymoronic 'voluntary contributions', which is good to see.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

But cyberbullying seems to be a bigger issue this year than ever before. There have been increasing calls for the introduction of 'cyber-safety classes', and while we should always approach such initiatives with scepticism - follow the money, in other words - there's no doubt that something needs to be done to help kids navigate the choppy waters of social media.

But what, exactly, can be done?

Forget about self-regulation by the tech giants, that ain't gonna happen and even if it does, it will be a fig leaf. 

Forget about the Government trying to impose regulation. They can't, and even if they could, they shouldn't. After all, does anyone really want this, or any other government being the arbiters of acceptable discourse?

There is, however, one eminently sensible approach, but it may not be popular because it involves a complete rethink of how we're approaching the issue.

The reality is that too much time is wasted trying to protect young people from reality. Instead, we should be preparing them for it.

Bullies will always exist, it's how you react that defines you. 

Kids need to be told that they actually have a choice in how they respond to being hassled online - they can fight back, ignore them... or go to pieces and have a breakdown.

Between the expensive TV ads about cyberbullying and the various hucksters warning of the impending doom of an entire generation, we seem to have forgotten one crucial concept - your self-respect comes from within, not without.

We're in serious danger of betraying an entire generation of young people by catastrophising the impact of social media, rather than telling them to hold their head up high, treat the bullies with the contempt they deserve and never, ever let the bastards grind you down.

It's not their fault, of course. For starters, many parents simply don't have any framework on how to approach these issues.

But freaking their kids out about the electronic bogeyman while neglecting to remind them to fight back will just create a generation of victims.

And nobody wants that.

Indo Review

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss

Editor's Choice