Don’t demonise internet

The following letters were published in today’s Australian under the heading ‘Don’t demonise the internet.

WHILE it’s understandable that the bereaved parents will look for someone or something to blame when their daughter kills herself (“Chanelle, 14, joins college’s tragic suicide toll”, 22/7), the truth is that the vast majority of young people who take their own lives have depression, usually unrecognised and undiagnosed. Youthbeyondblue strives to make people understand that depression is an illness. Chemicals in the brain, which regulate how one thinks, feels and behaves, get out of balance. No amount of love and caring or effort to build up the self-esteem of someone suffering from depression can alter their misperception that their situation is hopeless.

Demonising the internet is unwise; teaching young people how to use it safely and what to do when cyber-bullied is preferable.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
(Adolescent psychologist)
Balwyn, Vic

FOR far too many years the issue of cyber-bullying of and by young people has been placed on the merry-go-round of “it’s not my problem”. Schools have used the excuse that because it happened out of school hours, it’s not their problem. Police have said it’s not their problem, so parents have returned to the schools demanding that they deal with it to be sent away again.

Whilst the actual bullying comments may have been posted out of school hours, when cyber-bullying is between students in the same school, it does become a school problem. Schools have to deal with the fallout and are confronted with fractured friendships and the breakdown of the social cohesion of the class group involved. Invariably kids will take sides, and much of what occurs online is continued in the playground.

International research and evidence of best practice tell us that cyber-bullying is a whole-of-community problem and one that must be addressed with the coordination and cooperation of a range of professionals. Schools must do more than just have a policy that says don’t do it. Teachers must be given the training to understand these issues and deal with them promptly and confidently. Parents must embrace cyberspace and feel confident in their ability to set boundaries and rules and to instil in their children a sense of respect and responsibility for both themselves and others when online.

Finally, and most importantly, kids need to be taught about cyberspace and it must start early. The how, what, when and why. Kids have the technical skills but no understanding of the reality of cyberspace.

Susan McLean
(Susan McLean is a former Victoria Police officer who specialised in cyber-bullying and young people)
East Doncaster, Vic

One thought on “Don’t demonise internet

  1. An edifying post. When we demonise the internet, or anything/anyone else, we are shirking responsibility by pointing an oversized finger at something which we should be trying to understand and control. We may not like it, but new technologies are changing the way people interact. If we really care about what happens to young people on social networking sites such as Facebook, we should jump in and see these things from the inside. As educators it is our responsibility to teach our students the skills they need for their future, and if we turn away from these things, we are contributing to the problem. Knowledge is the only way we will be able to deal with problems which arise from online participation. We should take care not to glean our information from the media only, but practise what we preach to our students – be discerning, check our sources, understand the whole picture.

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