The Real Consequences of Actions in a Virtual World

The widespread use of the internet by increasingly-younger children is fraught with all kinds of inherent and related issues. As we have written recently, this can include the time kids spend online; but on the more alarming end of the spectrum it an also involve issues around bullying and related forms of victimization.

A recent article provides insight into the issues around online bullying – but not from the usual vantage-point of the child as victim.  Rather, it raises questions from the less common perspective of considering whether our own children are (or could be) the potential aggressors and the perpetrators of online bullying.   The article addresses what parents should look out for, and how they can prevent their kids from engaging in culpable conduct.

This shift in perspective is eye-opening, since as parents we rarely consider the possibility that our own children may be anything but victims.  But it’s even less often that we stop to consider how our own conduct could influence that of our children – particularly when we are embroiled in (and distracted by) a bitter separation or divorce with the other parent.

We all know that kids are perceptive, not to mention impressionable; they pick up on the subtle and not-so-subtle cues as to how parents deal with each other, through the content, tone, and reactions they hear and see. More to the point, kids can sense that the communication between parents – whether in-person, by phone, email or text – is acrimonious, bitter and vindictive.   Kids of all ages can be at serious risk of absorbing and adopting these kinds of negative sentiments.

But even if kids are not privy to their sparring parents’ communications, they may find themselves involved and influenced in an indirect manner.  For example in prior posts,  I have written about the apparent upsurge in the use by sparring Exes of social media outlets such as Facebook, in order to gather information that they later hope to use in their Family litigation against each other.  This will generally go on behind the scenes with children remaining uninvolved;  however, if both parents are on Facebook but are not “Friends” with each other, a child who is Friends with both of them may feel pressured into an information-gathering role to assist one parent to obtain social media “dirt” on other.  Needless to say, it is never a good idea to put children in the middle of their parents’ dispute in this manner.

The bottom line is that kids are surprisingly good at picking up on disrespectful, harassing, and antagonistic behaviour between their parents. You should always be careful to set a good example for your kids, whether in the online environment or in the real world.

What are your thoughts?

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