Internet Law

Cyber bullying: The hidden risks of social networks for children

Many dangers hide in the virtual world of the internet. Experts warn that children and young adults are particularly at risk of experiencing cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying: The hidden risks of social networks for children | Ingo Bartussek | Fotolia

Cyber bullying: The hidden risks of social networks for children | Ingo Bartussek | Fotolia

Internet risks

Experts have warned that children and young adults are particularly at risk of suffering harm on the internet.

The anonymity of the internet, for example, offers paedophiles the perfect environment in which to initiate contact with children. A study has shown that 750,000 paedophiles currently use the internet to search for children to contact. Through the use of webcams and so-called “selfies” (a self-shot photograph) paedophiles can readily gain “access” to a child’s bedroom.

Facebook rewards users

Researchers at the Free University of Berlin have discovered that the brain’s reward system is activated when Facebook users receive a lot of “likes” for a post. The internet ensures that quick feedback can be given and create attention for a user. Social network users therefore have the feeling of being rewarded when they post entertaining or interesting content and this can encourage children to divulge more personal information about themselves than is safe.

Cyber bullying

This can lead to a direct forum for cyber bullies. Indeed, cyber bullying is a rising problem in the internet and the full effects of the phenomenon are still not entirely known.

A study produced by the University of Münster in 2011 showed that 37% of schoolchildren have experienced bullying and insulting behaviour via mobile phones, e-mails and internet communities.

Particularly severe cases included so-called “sexting” (the exchange of naked photos between young people), which has in some incidences led to suicide.

The case of 15-year-old Canadian school pupil, Amanda Todd, is just one example of how the use of social networks can take a tragic end. She had e-mailed an anonymous male a photograph of her body, which he then posted on Facebook. Amanda was bullied by her fellow school friends and fell into depression before taking her own life.

Over 2.7 million people watched her farewell video, which she had filmed and placed on the internet shortly before committing suicide.

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Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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