What a 13-Year-Old Internet Guru Can Teach Us About Cyberbullying

13-year-old Daniel Singer has a stronger grasp on cyberbullying than most of us do-as well as on what we can do about it.
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Daniel Singer

Your generation is growing up with public profiles they may not be able to erase as adults. Is that scary?

DS: There’s a great article on Gizmodo about how the Internet is not temporary, and everything could be set in stone. And I think people need to get that message more. Even though a person feels like he is anonymous, if you do something bad, or that breaks the law, or is mean, you will be found and legal action can be taken.

If more kids knew they could get in trouble, do you think there would be less public bullying?

DS: I think if the point was more spread across to kids it would happen less, or maybe not at all. If people really knew they could be found by authorities on the site when they post something hurtful anonymously, they might not do it. I know for site owners this is a lot of extra work, but it’s their responsibility to protect users.

So sites, not just educators and parents, should be more transparent as authority figures. That makes a lot of sense.

DS: Yes and the best thing social networking sites can do is to invest in filters like Phrase-Sketcher to make it harder for people to post negative comments.

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Do you think negative comments and cyberbullying are the biggest fears kids have about the Internet these days?

DS: I think the fear for most genuine web users is that they’re doing something wrong or that don’t know how something they post now will affect them in the future. Let’s say a kid my age did something really stupid on Facebook, to point legal action has to be involved, that could really come back and hurt them when they try to go to college or get a job someday.

Do you think adults get what your generation is going through?

DS: I don’t think they understand the decision-making problems our generation has. Kids our age now are forced to make big decisions, and they lack decision-making skills you get from experience. Twenty years ago kids didn’t have to make decisions about sending important emails and posting things online that might not go away. I think that’s why insecurities and questioning behavior surfaces in the first place.

Obviously this is something you’ve thought a lot about. How do you protect yourself from bad decision-making, particularly now as a company man?

DS: Well, whenever I send email for something important I ask my dad to read it first.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but you’re a very smart kid.

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