‘Cyber Bullying’ : My Arse

Cyberspace, The Final Frontier (Of Hyperbole)

If you’ve switched on the TV news today, or opened a newspaper at any point, you will no have heard that “cyber bullying” is on the increase, and that it even happens in primary schools!

The reason that this is in the news, as it turns out, is because today marks the start of national anti bullying week. No, I didn’t either, but there you go. I doubt a week manages to go by without being hijacked to some cause that most people have never heard of and are unlikely to remember, and that’s this week’s.

In this case, the celebrants are the Anti Bullying Alliance (no, again, me neither) who describe themselves thusly

Founded in 2002 by NSPCC and National Children’s Bureau, the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) brings together over 60 organisations into one network. We look to develop a consensus around how to stop and prevent bullying. We aim to influence policy.

Ah, I see. A full list of those over 60 members can be perused here, it is left as an exercise for the reader to decide which of them are fake charities and pointless quangos spending your hard deaned tax money on lobbying the government to do what they were going to anyway.

To mark the start of this auspicious week, the ABA have made a press release with some numbers in it.

I have no particular axe to grind with the ABA, but when I hear this much hysteria pouring out of my media holes it generally makes me wonder if someone is pushing some kind of sinister-ish agenda. In this case it’s not particularly to hard to find, because it’s plastered all over the Telegraph

Sara Payne, mother of Sarah, the eight-year old who was murdered in 2000 by the paedophile Roy Whiting, urged parents to snoop on their children’s internet use to protect them from paedophiles and cyber-bullies.

Ah yes, to make the internets safe for children, that’s the one.

So the next time we see these particular numbers, they will most likely be being used as a cudgel to pound through some legislative agenda, or worse, some kind of pseudo legislative agenda such as the kind of “independently monitored voluntary code of practice” recommended by the Byron Review. Folk familiar with the telecomms industry will know that what “independently monitored voluntary code of practice” means is that a man from the home office comes around and says, in effect, you will follow this code of practice voluntarily, if you refuse, or if we independently monitor you failing to comply with it, we will pass some legislation that you really won’t like.

Numbers Game

It behoves us then, to understand that these numbers are the meaningless result of a survey sample that is unrepresentative, self selecting and biased. This much is evident from the little published data that exists. The whole survey does not appear to be available, so I stand open to correction when it becomes so, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Having said that, this wouldn’t be such a problem if all the ABA wanted to do was get some publicity for the eminently sensible common sense advice to parents that they have tagged to their press release. The problem will arise later when they start be used as part of that stated aim “to influence policy”, when it will be claimed that this is a ‘study’ or ‘research’ when it qualifies as neither. Watch this space.

The above being said, it would be wrong of me to engage further with the numbers, so I won’t.

Kids These Days

I’m not sure why the focus on ‘cyber’ bullying, personally. If you take the sentence “Primary school children are becoming victims of cyberbullying” and remove the ‘cyber’ and the ‘becoming’, we get “Primary school children are victims of bullying”. Well. Duh! Suddenly all the hysteria has leaked out. Children have been ‘bullying’ each other since one single celled organism turned to another single celled organism and shouted “Look everyone, Johnny folds his proteins to the LEFT!”

I’m sure it’s not very nice if someone sets up a facebook hate page especially for you, but is it any worse than someone taking a 3/4 Inch permanent marker and writing “Craig is a bender, IDST!” in the toilets where everyone can see it, or spray painting “Parr fucks budgies” on a railway bridge, or chalking “Kirsty is a slag!” on the rearmost panel of the blackboard so it shows when the teacher rolls it around ?

I note from looking at the ABA’s various publications that two of these now have their own special categories one is ‘homophobic’ bullying and one is ‘sexual bullying’, there seems to be no category for bestiaphobic bullying, though. Surely a fertile area for the ABA to tackle next.


One Response

  1. Prof Tanya Byron is on the BBC today promoting a child friendly BookFace clone called Kwercus.

    As if that will make a difference.

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