Is this bullying?
Yesterday my 12-year old son said he wanted to buy an ipod touch. Asked about a reason for this sudden desire when he already has multiple music-playing devices, he answered that ¨all¨ his friends have one and use one in the coach taking them to their regular soccer games.
Probed a little more, it transpired that, during a school outing, many kids had a mobile phone or ipod touch, and took photos of each other. One girl took a picture of our son that made him look ¨funny¨ and posted it on facebook which made him feel embarrassed. He now wants a device that can take pictures to take ¨revenge¨ on that girl. Hence the need for an ipod touch (since we won´t let him have a mobile yet).
There is a fine line between bullying and friendly fun. The problem with social networking is that, what was before just a private joke between friends can quickly degenerate in a public shameful experience, even if it was not meant that way by the initiator.
With these social networks, children (and many adults) have been given a powerful tool to communicate, but have never been taught how to use it properly and general "netiquette". They are learning by experience, a dangerous road given the immediacy of consequences. Talking to them openly about what to post, how to post, thinking of the reactions of others, etc, is a valuable teaching/learning opportunity.
In our case, this experience gave us the opportunity to talk about cyberbullying with our son: how to deal with this incident; how to report problems, small incidences or continuous harassment; the futility and danger to take revenge, and become himself a bully; how to carefully use these networks which can be fun but also very tricky...
Our son will probably get a new ipod touch soon, but he will have to buy it with his own pocket money...