Actually, I have to admit that cyberbullying is a real threat to many kids today. But only because kids are really, really freaking stupid. Tell me- would there even be a problem if people weren’t as emotionally invested with computers? I saw a video of a girl telling reporters about how someone took a picture off her MySpace account and made a fake site, which caused her to lose many of her friends. My thought after watching that was, basically, her friends trusted their computers more than they did her.
As I see it, cyberbullying only really began when social networks like MySpace and Facebook started becoming part of our society, when asking for a friend request was as natural as asking for a phone number. At this point, kids got the chance to interact with each other in a brand new way. But instead of adapting with the Internet, they brought their schoolyard rules with them. The cliques, popularity contests, and attention-seeking ploys are all natural ways for kids to establish their social identities, but these social rules aren’t the same as they are on the Internet.
The slang IRL is definitive proof of this. It dates back to early 90’s chatrooms and stands for In Real Life. Did those early chatters mean to imply that interaction over a computer network was less real than face-to-face conversation? Although, back then, no one was stupid enough to use their real names.
To further my point, I have been called many bad names on the Internet. People have used racial slurs to insult me even though most don’t even apply to me. In forums, I have been likened to Adolf Hitler for sharing my viewpoint. None of this bothers me. In fact, I do the same to these people quite often. Sometimes, it’s even amusing.
But if a pretty girl were to walk up to me and point out a blemish on my face, it’d bother me for the rest of the day.
The problem is, well-meaning parents are going six kinds of crazy trying to root out “cyberbullies” by filtering the sites their children their children can visit, trying to bring about laws to monitor the Internet, and attempting to punish those who dare to say mean things about their children, when all it calls for is a shift in perspective.
Perhaps kids might be better off if they stopped sharing their personal lives with strangers, or if they developed friendships without relying so much on their computer, or if they found something bad about them, they simply logged off. Parents could help out more if they stopped drying their child’s eyes let them learn how to separate Real Life from the Internet, or if they stopped chasing anonymous people on the Internet, or if they were really worried, gave their kids just a little time with a lifeless machine.
There’s a joke that circulates between experienced Internet users. They sometimes say, “The Internet is serious business.” Why would they find that so funny?
Because it’s a non-sequitur.