After just having watched the CBC Fifth Estate documentary on Amanda Todd, I’m starting to wonder whether the considered legislation that both the UK’s David Cameron and the USA’s Barack Obama wish to enforce if re-elected, is such a bad idea after all.
The legislation would for lack of a better phrase, force, internet providers in essence to store any communication that would emanate from someone’s computer, regardless of what kind of social media or email server being used. The idea is that it would possibly give the authorities a chance to ensure terrorist atrocities like the one that just occurred in Paris, France would not get off the ground.
I’m wondering however whether it would also serve the purpose to prevent cyber bullying and blackmail. Would people be really willing to be as forceful and as wicked, as in the case of Amanda Todd, if they knew that the authorities would have access to their actions in a matter of moments?
There seems to be a growing trend during the last half decade or so of cyber bullying and extortion of vulnerable women, regardless of their age. Adults experience this in the form of revenge porn, whilst younger women often have themselves extorted for sexual imagery, with no care whether the person finding themselves blackmailed over these pictures are children or not.
It has become a disturbing thought for me that so many men seem to be so base in their urges, and so comfortable in their malice that they could treat any woman like this, it is morally reprehensible and frankly outright disgusting, and it shames me that my gender would stoop as low as it has. Twenty, thirty years ago, the image of a sexual predator would be the over friendly old man who keeps peering at young women whilst sitting on a park bench, offering candy.
Today a sexual predator can be an ex partner wanting some vengeance over a perceived slight, or a young man barely out of his teens with no more than three hairs on his chin. Previously we were taught as children to never trust strangers, and to keep an eye for anything strange, yet with the introduction of the internet, and its global spread, add to the fact the anonymity it provides, just how possible is it to be able to be permanently vigilant?
Which brings me to the main point of today’s post, as a father of three, two of which are young girls, I am beginning to fear the moment they reach their teens. In the past the only bullying I would have to keep an eye for, is the type which would occur on the playground, today however, I have to wrestle with the notion that my children might not be even safe in the comfort of their own homes.
Of course you have to keep an eye on your children, and I am in no way an advocate of the notion that if I cannot hear them misbehave, that means that they are not misbehaving, but we cannot watch our children at every moment of every day.
Whilst they are young, they will want to spend as much of the time they can with us as possible, my daughter being a fine example, seeing as she never wishes to leave my side. However, this will not always be the case, once they enter their teens, they, like I once did, will be permanently requesting their privacy, and like all children these days, will also want the latest technology at their fingertips.
Yes there are safeguards on laptops, tablets and phones, as well as restrictions that can be placed on which sites they visit, but children nowadays are more technologically proficient than we ourselves are, and I have no doubt, that a truly determined child, will eventually find a way to bypass them.
Technology in itself is not a bad thing, there is now more opportunities, more knowledge available because of it, however the person behind the screen, much like the person that walks down the street, can be as malicious as they come, and therein lies the danger.
Cyber bullying is a rapidly growing trend, often hidden under the guise of trolling, humour and behind a veil of anonymity, and it seems that we as a society, are still coming to grips with how to deal with this, as are the authorities. My belief is that the best way to ensure this trend ends, is through education. Not an overly generalising education with scant details and nothing more than generic buzzwords to ensure demographics and targets are met, but something perhaps altogether more efficient.
The main reasoning I hear behind some of the malicious trolling I have come across is always the same “we were just having a laugh, we didn’t mean it”, with sites like 4chan seemingly revelling in such things. Usually the simple notion that there is someone else at the end of the screen doesn’t seem to either be considered or is simply ignored. If those doing these sort of actions, were faced with the consequence of their actions, then perhaps things would eventually change.
A way to do this, would be to have teenagers, in school, listen to former victims of cyber bullying, so that they could learn just how much damage they can cause. The harrowing words of these people would perhaps not deter the most determined of bullies, after all, some people are just malicious, but it certainly would deter a lot of others who are merely not considering the consequences of their actions, or succumbing to peer pressure.
Another deterrent would be to ensure there are harsh punishments from a legal and judicial perspective, with the inclusion of incarceration, as well as rehabilitation therapy for any of those that undertook such actions, the greater the damage, the harsher the punishment.
Education and consequences will go a long way into buckling this rather disturbing trend. I would apply even harsher judicial punishments on those who are guilty of online blackmailing and sexual extortion, and hopefully, with these things in place, it would go a long way to ensure that there are less stories of innocent victims like Amanda Todd to be told.