Column: The First Years Last Forever
A loving mother of a son who has changed her life and put it into perspective. Ayesha is a senior social media specialist, a Global Leader for young children in the Arab region, and a writer in few Arabic publications. Her column is written in collaboration with the Arabian Child organization, and offers inspiration and an in-depth exploration of early childhood development.
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Article in brief: Children and teenagers who don’t have a healthy relationship with their parents can get a very low self-esteem which can make them an easy victim to predators when it comes to cyber bullying and cyber grooming.
Artwork by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)
Everyone remembers an awful story about school bullies they encountered at a certain age back in school. Maybe they stole your pencil case, bloodied your nose, pulled your hair, or spread a rumour about you that made you hate going to school. We do see bullying a lot in the news recently whether it’s direct (such as hitting, name calling) or indirect (such as threatening, teasing). Moreover, the situation today is even more severe since bullying can happen not only on school grounds but they can also happen in cyberspace where bullies can hide their identities and skilfully lurk where they cannot be seen.
Cyberbullies use Internet tools to abuse or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. Some children or teenagers are getting connected to Internet communication tools such as mobile phones, social networking, chat rooms, email, and instant messaging which might make them exposed to different types of cyber harassment, and certain children, like those with low self-esteem, become an easy victim.
Children are innocently conditioned to think that everything and everybody in life is wonderful, but in today’s world, this concept is challenged and threatened. Parents need to focus on developing a healthy and strong relationship with their children starting from birth, because this is when the seeds of self-esteem are sown which in turn increases their positive sense of self and will help maintain successful experiences in both cyberspace and offline.
Observably, the absence of a healthy relationship with parents can encourage some children to communicate with strangers online through chat rooms or social networking websites and get emotionally attached to them because they made them feel somehow worthwhile and fill the aching void inside them and here where the cyber grooming starts.
Predators take on a false identity spending a number of months befriending a child to prepare for the abuse in the real world. It’s not always easy for a child to tell when the new friends online have bad intentions. Some of them pose as a 17 years old teenagers where in reality, they are a 45 years old male and that can make the child at potential risk of encountering predators.
“My life is ruined”. “Nothing ever is going to be the same” are a couple of expressions that were miserably stated in the movie “Trust” that tells its story of a teenage 14-year-old girl who was targeted by an online sexual predator. The movie shows how an online chatting with a predator ended up psychologically devastating a teenage girl. This example could happen with anyone who is in a vulnerable state especially the youth whose minds are still developing. The predator starts seducing them through attention, flattering and kindness because they seek face-to-face meetings to have sexual interface.
Online predators take advantage of being anonymous to build trust and develop online relationships with innocent children. They usually target children who have very low self-esteem and have problems in house or school to sympathize with them, this is when the trust is built, and the tragedy starts.
The predator tries to gain children’s trust at first by pretending to share common interest. Then they try to ease the concept of pornography by gradually showing them some sexually explicit material and that could be fulfilled by communicating with them online through social networking sites. After the connection is built with the children, meetings start taking place to complete the obnoxious acts that most probably have a shocking ending.
Parents can’t help with cyberbullying and cyber grooming if they are not well educated about the social networking tools and not aware of what is going on with their children because some of them are busy placing unrealistic demands of perfectionism on their children.
Make sure that your children feel very comfortable coming to you when they face any problem in the offline/online worlds and that won’t make them reluctant to have a heart to heart talk with you when they are troubled either of the worlds.
If love and guidance are not provided by a child’s parents, he or she can feel more needy and insecure because their emotional needs are not met properly. Here they are more likely to be exposed to the fake sweet talk and encouragement furnished by strangers online since children take everything literally, it doesn’t matter if the stranger’s fake tender loving care converts their untainted social path to explosive landmines.
Written in collaboration with Arabian Child organization. Visit www.arabianchild.org for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.