Child Suicide: How You & Your Child Can Stay Safe on the Internet

According to the few existing studies on the subject – mostly conducted in industrialised countries – most children who actually commit suicide are usually boys, while most suicide attempts are made by girls.

A study conducted in the United States reveals that suicide is the fourth largest cause of mortality among 10-14 year olds, and the third largest in those over the age of 15. Even the suicide of a 7-year-old has been reported. According to two Swiss studies conducted in the past among children aged 11-15 years and 16-20 years, approximately 8% of girls and 3% of boys admitted to at least one attempt in their life.

There are numerous factors contributing to this, like cyber dependence (addiction to video games or the internet), harassment at school or violence because of one’s sexual orientation or minority status, should also be considered.

The most difficult for parents and guardians especially to be aware of is cyber dependence. Due to their busy schedules and economic instabilities, parents easily find it hard to monitor the activities of their wards on the internet.

Through research, it was realised that most students fall victim as a result of cyber bullying. The term that readily comes to mind is internet trolls.

How can I keep my child safe or how can I, as a student be safe from internet trolls.

What is an internet troll? According to Wikipedia, a troll is a person who sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

The result of such actions could be very devastating on a mentally weak person and young minds.

The best way a child could be well protected against them, especially where parental guidance is frowned at by these young ones, is unmasking them.

Internet trolls are powerless without anonymity: By obscuring their identities behind random screen names, they can engage in hateful exchanges and prey on complete strangers without fear of retaliation. In doing so, they illustrate one troubling characteristic of humankind: People are shitty to people they don’t know.

Fortunately, curbing this tendency is extremely straightforward, scientists report in a new study.

In a new paper to be published in Science Advances, a team of scientists reveal a simple solution for getting people to cooperate: “Removing the cloak of anonymity seems to go a long way towards making people more thoughtful about their actions,” Hokkaido University biophysicist and economist Marko Jusup, Ph.D., a co-author on the study, tells Inverse in an e-mail.

This conclusion may seem like a no-brainer, but in fact it’s not always clear what factors lead people to cooperate rather than engage in conflict.

To investigate what makes people choose conflict over peace, he and his colleagues from China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University ran a slightly modified version of the classic social cooperation experiment called the “Prisoner’s Dilemma.” The setup was simple: Pairs of strangers in mock court are told they’ll get a prize by testifying against the other but that they’ll both get fined if both of them do so. If they both remain silent, however, they’ll both walk free. The idea is that ratting on your partner gives you a better reward than cooperating with them, so it’s expected that most rational-thinking people won’t play nice. In their experiments, Jusup and his colleagues modified this concept slightly to see whether people would play nice if they weren’t strangers.

Their 154 participants had “prior knowledge of each other” and were roughly the same age and had the same interests,” Jusup says. They were given the option to maintain or revoke their anonymity during the game, which lasted multiple rounds. The scientists found that when participants knew each other, they were much more likely to cooperate with each other than if they were total strangers. “This paid out very well for all – so, winners play nice,” he said in a statement.

The central question in studying social cooperation, Jusup says, is this: What do prospective cooperators know about each other? The research shows that mutual recognition — even just seeing a familiar face — forces people to act more thoughtfully.

The power of mutual recognition was illustrated in famous ferry scene in The Dark Knight, which showed a much more sinister version of the same Prisoner’s Dilemma. In the scene, the Joker traps two groups of Gotham citizens in separate ferries; both ferries are lined with explosives, and each group has a detonator to blow the other up and set itself free in the next 30 minutes. If neither group triggers the detonator, the Joker will blow them both up. The Joker, of course, thinks that both groups, comprising complete strangers in an evil town who owe each other nothing, should have no problem blowing up the other. But the captives, amid their deliberations, come to an important realization: They’re not strangers but together are Gothamites, and thus they share a set of beliefs of morals that binds them.

Ultimately, recognizing similarities involves exchanging details about identity, and this in turn builds trust. Jusup thinks we can apply the findings from his study to pretty much any situation that requires cooperation. “It would seem that people should take a little time to exchange information about one another before getting down to ‘business’,” he says. “Such an exchange, according to our results, should put people into a more cooperative frame of mind.”

As for dealing with internet trolls, he thinks it’s much more likely that online conversations will stop de-volving “towards the point where participants simply insult one another” if users are forced to share some personal information for others to see, like a simple profile or a photo.

But even niceness has its limits, Jusup found: Cycles of conflict and retaliation began when one participant punished the other for screwing them over previously. He and his colleagues thought that punishment might lead a participant to wise up and act more cooperatively the next time around, but the results suggest social cooperation isn’t that straightforward. “This high level of onymity bears a question: To what extent could onymity be lowered and still promote cooperation?” Jusup asks, noting that his follow-up work will address this question. While there’s little doubt that forcing anonymous trolls to reveal themselves will reduce their hatefulness, it remains to be seen how to deal with trolls you know.

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