Ginger Gorman has literally written the book on understanding online trolling. In the process she’s uncovered entire networks dedicated to harassing individuals off the Internet entirely, as well as poisoning the minds of the young and the vulnerable with hateful ideologies.
Sadly, this is just one of the dangers posed by the online world. On the upside, there’s one very simple way to safeguard young people who are increasingly growing up online: talk to them, really talk to them about what they experience there.
This goes well beyond vague understandings of what social media platforms, sites and games they’re spending time on. What specific forums do they frequent? What do they talk about? Who are their friends online, and do they know who these people are in real life? Are any of their online contacts overly interested in their personal details?
Of course, the way you talk about these issues matters just as much as the content. Trying to interrogate, or pontificate on your superior knowledge and wisdom is likely to be worse than useless. On the other hand a genuine conversation, based on real interest in the young person’s experiences, may not only yield better results but also deepen the young person’s trust. This makes it much more likely that they’ll come to you with any problems, as Gorman illustrates with a case study in which a serial child predator was arrested purely because one of their intended victims told her mum what was happening.
For young children in particular, Gorman advocates co-playing/viewing, where the parent is with a child as they use a device. This allows the child to learn how to make safe and healthy use of technology, but with adult supervision to help them navigate any potential pitfalls. This is the extreme flipside of unsupervised use, where a young person uses a device in their room alone, which is dangerous for children and teens alike.
Simple steps like these are the absolute fundamentals of cybersafety, and are essential for young people growing up in a world where devices are pocket-sized and the lines between the online and offline world are blurred. The danger for young people left to fend for themselves isn’t just that they’ll be the victim of an online troll or predator; but the perhaps even more concerning possibility, that they’ll become one themselves.
Read the full article by Ginger Gorman at: I’ve spoken to some of the world’s worst trolls. Here’s what can help keep your kids safe online
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