OPINION: Vital to teach children to ignore online abuse, like I do

Ruth Davies says teaching children to ignore online abuse is as important as telling them not to do drugs

Ruth Davies says teaching children to ignore online abuse is as important as telling them not to do drugs - Credit: PA

I’d say bringing up children in the digital age is more precarious than ever before.

While bullying has always been a factor on the playground (and beyond) the online element of it these days is a whole new world and one which is more dangerous and darker than ever before.

The ability to hide behind a computer screen, using a pseudonym to say things without any comeback is there for the taking and though for you or I it might seem absurd to take time out of our own lives to be anonymously unkind to another, it is a very real, regular occurrence.

As a parent I do worry that my children will at some point fall prey and not have the life experience to make like Teflon about it.

There are, thank goodness, motions to call out trolling and online abuse and I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

I feel certain if people couldn’t sit hidden as they spew out hatred then a goodly portion of it would cease.

I have come to the conclusion that the people who feel the need aren’t really all that brave or they would put their faces to their online names and be counted. They don’t do that very often though which speaks volumes and so without doubt they are the people who would be too afraid to behave in such a way in “real life”.

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Only the online world is real life and people get very hurt, indeed they can go under at the hands of such behaviours, so something has to be done!

I opened my blog the other day to discover an extremely unpleasant message sent directly to my inbox, every so often it happens and as I filter all my messages, or rather my virtual PA does, it didn’t reach the publishing stage and it won’t.

I’m seasoned in this type of thing and have long ago realised like with any other form of bullying it says more about the people who leave the comments than it does about myself. I’m happy, they’re not. Simple as that and I don’t have time in my life to dignify individually any negative things which are said about me.

I have done in the past, but it gets you nowhere and these days I don’t even read the vast majority of it. Constructive criticism I’m all for, structured opinions that don’t align with my own and I’m absolutely keen on debate and discussion but pure and simple abuse, especially anonymously, and I’m over and out!

I have accepted that as my job is giving published opinion on a variety of platforms, I open myself up for it, put myself in the firing line so to speak and there is nothing I can do about it (for now) so with age and experience I have been able to ignore, dismiss and not care for this behaviour.

For me it’s simple, if I don’t like something or someone then I don’t read it or follow them.

It’s pretty easy to mute, unfollow or even block the things you don’t like online, and my life is happier for not having influences I’m not keen on in my every-day life.

I take control of that, but I guess for some, especially youngsters, this self-assured attitude is easier said than owned. For them we do need to continue the campaign for transparency when speaking online in order to keep our kids safe.

In the wake of the death of local girl Caroline Flack, which sparked the message of “if you can be anything, be kind,” you would hope that everyone would take responsibility for their words and actions but without measures in place to ensure it, they will not.

Unhappy, hurt people want to hurt other people and with this passport to do so it’s never going to stop unless clear rules are in place with consequences to actions. People like Caroline Flack suffered immeasurably but sadly she wasn’t one and alone. There are many, many more suffering just the way she did. This is why it’s so important to continually campaign for accountability online.

Until then, my children will be told over and over not to pay attention, not to read, listen or look and to ignore anything that comes without a brave face behind the words, for if someone has not enough gumption to own their own opinions then you absolutely don’t have to care about them.

It will be instilled in them along with telling them not to take drugs or walk home alone at night and a whole host of other things.

Because they are dangerous and harmful to your health and all I want is for you to be happy.

We all just should be striving for happiness, this applies to the nameless people behind these sorts of comments too.

I hope they find theirs.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk