Home' Waitomo News : 13 December 2016 Contents 8 Waitomo News Tuesday, December 13, 2016
...it’s not OK
8 Waitomo News Tuesday, December 13, 2016
A WAITOMO NEWS SPECIAL FEATURE - BY TODD WARD
AS Journey Church pastor Terry Bradley’s three-year ‘Cyberbul-
lying is not Okay’ campaign draws to an end the passionate youth
leader pulls back the curtain on how an increasing over-reliance on
social media and internet use is quickly beginning to control people’s
lives. Fearing a future where infants are raised by flat screens and
generations of young people lack “real world” social skills, Terry
hopes the trend can be reversed and face-to-face interaction once
again becomes the norm and not the exception when forging human
By Terry Bradley
TODAY we are about 10 years, maybe more, into what some
say is the ‘greatest unregulated social experiment for our youth
in our history’.
With the dawn of the internet age, followed hard on its heels
by the social media phenomenon, some behavioural scientists
are saying that a comparable period in our history was the ‘age of
enlightenment’, which occurred from about 1550-1800.
The stark difference was that one lasted over two centuries
whereas this one can be measured in decades!
Currently, 3.7 billion people use the internet, with that figure
projected to be about 5.2 billion by 2020.
Like the industrial revolutions before it, where the effect on
child welfare was not realised until many years later – think small
children climbing up chimneys, or working in factories – we have
jumped on board for the ride, bringing our babies, children and
youth with us, without knowing where we will end up, and what
the effects will be.
To be sure, the internet and social media have provided an
enormous amount of benefits to society from communications,
to research and access to about any shop or interest that we could
possibly think of. The question that has not been asked is “what
impact will this have on children and youth’s ability to develop
normal social skills?”
REAL VS CYBER WORLD
Already it has been proven that there is a difference between
the ‘real world’ and the ‘cyber world’.
In the real world, we use the time learned skills of intuition and
judgement that were matured through the exercise of our senses
and the learning environment of face-to-face life encounters.
These skills are almost of no use whatsoever in the cyber world.
We think we are safe, because we know them, but do we really?
It gets worse.
It has been shown that many people behave in a more uninhib-
ited way when they are on the internet.
Much like a person does when they are drunk, the drink ampli-
fies that person’s personality, possibly as much as five times more.
If you think this is not true, have a look at a comments section
on any news article and see how far you read before you cringe!
The reason why people do this is because:
1) they believe they are anonymous
2) that there is a lack of authority (accountability)
3) because they feel they have a sense of physical distance and
are therefore safe.
This explains why cyberbullying has risen and why some people
just go way too far in offering their opinions because they haven’t
experienced the real-time effect of their actions.
The frightening possibility is that if this ‘being honest’ is cele-
brated as a virtue at the expense of empathy and respect for others,
how long before it becomes normalised and socially acceptable for
people to start relating that way in the real world?
Another challenge we face is of even greater concern.
What will the impact be on a young baby’s social development
when the face time between the mother and baby is interrupted
continuously because the mother or caregiver is staring at a smart
Go to any cafe and see if this happens.
It has been scientifically proven that the first two years of a
baby’s life sets the stage for what comes next.
Babies need eye contact, to be touched and engaged – these
things have been the normal pathway for development for thou-
sands of years.
What will be the impact if that contact is cut by 30% or even
This key developmental window for babies is only open for a
fixed period, and when it shuts, then that is it.
Already in the UK they are seeing children arrive at school aged
five, with the social skills of a two-year-old.
The iPad has in some circles now been infamously reported to
be the new ‘pacifier’.
Is it any wonder that we are seeing an increasingly rising per-
centage of hyperactive children?
In the US, most children have a cell phone by the time they
are six years old.
How many of those have internet access, and how safe are they?
Consider this, would we as parents drop our children off un-
supervised, in the centre of an unknown city for say six hours?
Of course not.
But aren’t we doing just that when we leave them unattended
in the cyber world?
Saying it is unsafe is just not good enough, if we say ‘stay away
from the internet, it’s dangerous’, that just creates in them a strong
desire to explore.
So no surprise then that a recent report showed that 69% of
young people hide what they’ve been up to in cyberspace.
Our normal sense and intuition would not allow us to invite
someone we feel uneasy about into our homes, and yet through
the internet for many, there is an open door.
It is a well-known fact that both Apple founder the late Steve
Jobs, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, were extremely vigilant regarding
access to the internet for their children.
What should that tell us about what they realised?
A study commissioned by the UK government suggests parents
1) use technical mediation in the form of parental control
software, content filters, PIN passwords, or safe search software
which restricts searching to age-appropriate sites
2) talk regularly to their children about managing online risks
3) set rules or restrictions around online access and use
4) supervise their children when they are online (just like you
would at a park).
But perhaps my greatest concern of all though is this, the
impact social media could have upon the development of our
youth’s social skills.
Way back when I was young, if something bothered me, I
may have confided in a trusted close friend, and sworn them to
a lifetime of secrecy.
Today’s young person may more likely take that same concern
and share it with ‘only 400’ of their ‘closest friends’ on social media!
Youth issues and concerns have remained the same for years, but
how we processed them was a world away from what it is today.
We too wrestled with image, our place in the world, acceptance,
decision making, and the consequences of crazy choices, but at
least they weren’t done in such a way as the whole world could
potentially see, and offer their opinion.
That has proved to be a burden too far for some, and has led to
Where we tried to dress to impress a few people, the rise of the
‘selfie’, has launched many on a self-centred quest to be the best,
and to become the most ‘liked’.
If we wanted a ‘selfie’, it cost a small fortune, and you had to wait
a while as it was being processed at the local chemist.
Not so now with digital cameras on nearly all phones, and good
Image has always been an important issue for young people,
but young people especially should realise that the internet and
social media can be both beauty and beast.
Unlike contemporary thinking, where we are told that the future
belongs to the young, I believe in this instance, our hope lies with
those who are 35 years and older.
Those who can remember growing up and interacting in the
days before home computers.
I am not for one minute rejecting the internet or social media,
they are not the issue, they are simply tools that can be used for
good or for bad.
What I am suggesting is that we intentionally make the time, to
be present to the moment with our children, our youth, and those
who are sitting opposite us at cafes.
Can you imagine walking down the street actually talking to
those you are physically with, rather than walking five across, all
heads bowed in texting unison?
Imagine going out for dinner, and it is you and who you are
with only there, not the 300 others commenting on what you are
eating or who you are with?
Imagine a world where people go to their GP for medical help,
instead of ‘Dr Google’ and all its help forums?
Or where at the end of the day parents and caregivers sit down
with their kids and ask how their day has been, what’s happening
in the real world, rather than being forwarded an online post?
Here is a radical one, imagine talking to our young people
about image, and learning identity, how we view members of the
opposite sex, where we talk about the real person versus the one
created in the cyber world?
Talking about cause and effect of the things that we say, about
what it means to stand up for others.
DO WHAT IS RIGHT!
Currently the internet and social media is driven by professional
marketers who know how to entice, who build upon the good
feeling we get when we see, ‘we’ve got mail’ and techno wizards
providing us with even more amazing things that we ‘must have’.
There is little obvious moderation being provided by the Gov-
ernment from a social perspective.
The only safeguards we have is if someone downloads or uploads
illegal content, or bullies or threatens harm, or acts fraudulently,
and gets caught, then they can be prosecuted.
But what about the world of unimaginable graphic content, that
is just a click away, and with the computer or smart phone there
is no respecter of age.
A child does not have the tools to deal with that.
What imprint is that leaving?
What effect will that have as that individual reaches adulthood?
What do social media postings encourage our youth to act like
regarding members of the opposite sex, or the elderly, or even
people in distress?
Help them, or video it for YouTube?
Maybe pose for a selfie?
Our youth are better than that, and hopefully as we have seen
throughout this campaign, they will stand up, both in the real
world, and in the cyber one, and do what is right.
A closing quote comes from what has inspired me to write this
article, Dr Mary Aiken in the book called The Cyber Effect says:
“As for childhood? I stand with philosophers Locke and Rousseau in
their belief that children have the right to innocence, and a right to a
childhood. I think all human beings deserve to have one.”
Hopeful we all do the right thing
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