A lot of internet forums that your child goes to has the option to participate anonymously. In a sense, that’s pretty good because at least it protects privacy. On the other hand—anonymity takes away responsibility. Anonymity on the internet means strangers have the license to be mean, obscene, threatening, and frightening without consequences. Online anonymity means that your child talks to strangers with no name.
What is Anonymity on the Internet?
Online forums, or certain social media platforms, or comment sections under creative content has the option for people to participate without using their actual name. They could be using a false identity, an alias, or no name at all. And under this guise of anonymity, they can wreak havoc.
Take Ask.fm for example. In concept, it is a social media platform that allows people to ask each other questions. These questions can be asked anonymously, and needless to say, trolling ensues. And it is bad enough to drive 16-year-old Jessica Laney to hang herself after trolls told her she should die.
She also talked of struggles on the page with the anons…
And it is quite difficult to pinpoint who her true aggressors were because of the utter lack of transparency. It’s why people have turned to blaming the platform itself perhaps.
Why Talk to Anon?
Anonymous posting is quite common in interest based communities, or fandoms. You child may start talking to an anon to discuss their favorite televisions show, or books, or a movie. Prolonged contact could lead them to share personal details. Teenagers need someone to vent to, and venting to anons is quite the cleanse if you think about it—because they are under a guise, there are apparently no consequences.
But the trouble is, the stranger with no name could be anyone under the son. They could be fellow teenagers. They could be bullies. Or they could be predators. In any case, mean or disturbing comments from a stranger with no name does take a toll on their wellbeing. And a lot of kids still don’t know how to come forward and explain that they are being bullied by an anonymous stranger on the internet—because to a parent, it sounds silly or absurd.
What Needs to be Done
By definition of anonymity, you wouldn’t know who these anons are. And your kids might not know the best way to tell you who is bullying them either. So, what can you do as a parent?
First of all, understand that online anonymity gives way for trolling. When people take on anon, they let down all their inhibitions, so they are as unfiltered and as awful as they well please. When your child is at the receiving end of their tact, of course they would be upset. Bottom line—anons are proper bullies, even if they have no name. Take them seriously.
Secondly, start monitoring their phones and internet activity. Point out the places (communities, fandoms, IM groups) the frequent and see what their commenting policies are like. Thoroughly check them for malicious anons.
Finally, report any bullying you point out to the platform or website in question. Most social media platforms will have policies to keep their websites safe from cyberbullying.
Be proactive in their online lives, and come up to speed with how they use the internet. Of course, we’ll be here to help you and guide you along the way.