SOCIETY TALK

Children acting out on the internet is a cry for attention

While there are endless positive impacts of technology and the internet on children, the negative impacts seem to outshine the good

In Summary

• Children are literally crying out for attention. Is anyone listening?

The logo at Consolata School.
The logo at Consolata School.
Image: COURTESY

Forget about the state of the nation, let’s talk about the state of the children. Children nowadays are born into the digital era with the world literally at their fingertips. They learn how to sing along to their ABCs on streaming TV, learn how to use the Internet by the time they are five, and play FIFA on PS4 better than they could kick an actual ball.

Being tech-savvy is not just a privilege anymore, it has become a necessary skill for all young people. In fact, a study out of the University of California noted that when children spend time online, it teaches them the social and technical skills they need to be ‘competent citizens in the digital age’.

All children must learn basic technical skills at the very least to be members of contemporary society. While there are endless positive impacts of technology and the Internet on children, the negative impacts seem to outshine the good.

Last week, the hashtag ‘consolatakid’ was trending on Twitter after a young boy posted a video of himself spewing profanities. This pre-teen shook the core of Twitter nation with his crass language. As the incident went viral and authorities — I’m assuming the school — intervened, the young man was forced to issue an apology.

This is the part that is confusing. Why would the adults encourage him to post an apology video? By using the same platform to undo the damage is only encouraging him to believe he could go viral again. I wasn’t surprised at what happened next.

As would have been expected, the desire for fame had taken over. The boy posted yet another video, which was even more uncouth. This time around there were two of them, uttering such filth that grown folks would be ashamed to say. Thankfully, this time round, no one took the bait. For whatever reason, this child believed that such actions got him attention but the people on Twitter were adamant not to give him what he wanted.

The Internet is so contrary that sometimes children end up being rewarded for bad behaviour. A child might do something bad on the Internet but when the video or post ends up trending, they gain large followings and even contracts of financial nature. The adults involved forget about punishing the child and care more about the financial prospects.

A good example of this is when Danielle Bregoli, 13, went on Dr Phil a few years ago. Her behaviour had turned so bad that the mother asked for help from the renowned psychologist. Danielle’s behaviour was so absurd that the audience members couldn’t help laughing. Angered, the girl retorted, “Cash me ousside, how buh dah?”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that. The Internet blew up, immortalising those words. The teenager received something she never imagined: fame. Danielle received endorsement deals, record deals and a large following. Amid all the buzz, everyone forgot the reason why the girl was on TV in the first place; she was a troubled teen who was seeking help.

Last year, a seven-year-old boy from Hamburg led a children’s march, protesting the overuse of smartphones by their parents. Adults are using smartphones to make things easier. But since they can work, socialise, pay bills all from the phone, they are too engrossed in their devices and barely pay attention to the children. Children are literally crying out for attention. Is anyone listening?