The Solution to Cyber-Bullying is Parental Responsibility
It seems that in a liberal-democratic society, the imperative to regulate the masses can only be validly proposed if the safety of the children is deemed to be at risk. Throughout much of the 20th century, it was the portrayal of violence and sex on celluloid. In the 1980s heavy metal music compelled the world’s youth to satanic worship and suicide.
Today, it is digital technologies that threaten to unmake society by corrupting minds and hearts of innocent youth. The ability of Australian adults to access video games, is for instance, restricted via a video game classification system to prevent violent rampages by impressionable children. In 2014, cyber-bullying has emerged as the primary threat to our children.
In January this year, Australia’s federal government issued a discussion paper, Enhancing Online Safety for Children, inviting experts to reflect on proposed measures to improve the online safety of children, who need to be protected from “child pornography, being groomed by a pedophile” and “cyber-bullying.”
It is worth noting that this absurd collocation of offences is clearly designed to dissuade experts from opposing proposed measures outright; no one wants their objections, to ill-devised strategies for curtailing cyber-bullying, to be misinterpreted as support for child pornography and paedophilia. The caution that this strategy has inspired is reflected by newly publicised responses to the discussion paper, which are carefully worded to avoid use of these taboo “P” words.
Open discussion, is however, absolutely imperative. As indicated by the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA), proposed mechanisms of intervention to achieve the removal of harmful content are impracticable. Moreover, the involvement of government is more likely to worsen industry response times by adding extra layers of bureaucracy.
Proposed mechanisms include the establishment of national standards for all digital products. This would be overseen by a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner, a lone gatekeeper with the authority to order the removal of material deemed harmful. Of course, this would be complemented by legislation that would see the criminalisation of cyber-bullying, and presumably, the children who cyber-bully.
Ultimately, the imposition of national standards assumes that public are too dumb to conduct the necessary research about internet safety, and implement the measures that are most suitable for their own families. A national standard denies the public the ability to assume responsibility and choose the most appropriate strategies for them. And responsibility is ultimately the solution to the problem.
Rather than costly and ill-fated attempts to dictate what others can and cannot do, individuals and parents must assume responsibility for their conduct and the conduct of their children. The internet is just another social space, albeit one with its own specific characteristics. In the same way that we teach our children not to bite the other kid in the playground, it is our collective responsibility to teach our children how to use the internet appropriately according to personal and social values. If you are unfamiliar with the internet, and you have children, it is your responsibility to become familiar with it so that you can properly guide them.
Anti-social behaviours have been around for millennia and it is absurd to think that governments, which are yet to solve any one problem that they have assumed responsibility for, can solve bullying via the regulation of digital technology.