Being a part of a group is an important, even vital element of our lives. We share interests, hobbies and feel safe in a circle that accepts us for who we are – it’s a basis of a functioning society. Momio is a great way for kids to find such circles, share their ideas, pictures and meet people who can become their fast friends. But sharing things can have its downside: not everyone on the internet is nice.
Being a part of something
As cliché as it sounds, comments, especially under photos, can be mean. Adults are pretty resistant to such trolling, but children don’t have tough skins yet. Additionally, some comments don’t just simply say “You’re ugly”. It’s much more hurtful to say: “You don’t look too nice, no one will like you, and no one will want to date you”. Those words hurt the most, because everyone, and particularly kids, need constant validation and acceptance from their peers. They want to be individuals, but it’s much more important to be a part of a group – not excluded from it.
A new face of bullying
Well, not so new. Children, and adults, have been experiencing this since forever. At school, during after school activities and recently also online, as it’s been transplanted from the “real world” to the online one. Deleting someone from their friends’ list or even just threatening to do this is an example of the same type of behaviour: exclusion and rejection. This simple statement carries an enormous force behind it and can impact a child’s life tremendously. This is what children fear most when they are in any kind of social relations – to be left alone and outside of a circle.
It also hurts, because of self-esteem issues and the simple need to be liked and accepted by your peers. Dr. Lynn Todman mentioned in an article about this issue that it begins as early as age four. A child’s need to have approval from their parents declines and it begins to be more and more dependant on the approval of its peers. The same article states that this isn’t thankfully a “permanent condition and is a part of it is simply finding your own identity.” Both bullies and the bullied learn something from this experience.
Dealing with the problem?
On our part, watAgame tries to teach and point out that all forms of bullying online (and offline too!) are a negative thing. Our own police officer Jack reminds everyone that bullying is mean-spirited and creates a nasty atmosphere on Momio. Thankfully, 7-12 year-olds respect him and when he points out their wrongdoings, most kids behave well afterwards. As administrators, every time we give a warning or a time-out, we try to explain and show what was wrong with what the user said. This way, the punishment doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it makes sense to the child that wrote it. It may be a bit of an uphill battle, since it’s just human nature, but one that is worth fighting.