The new school year has started. First day photos have been taken, schoolbags have grown heavy with new books, and the reality of homework and early morning alarm clocks is beginning to set in. The evenings are shortening and the papers are speculating about the chances of an Indian Summer. It's September again...
Sometimes it's hard to understand why they're attacking you, and it's bad enough when the keyboard warriors come for you in their scores... but what if a fandom comes for you? What if it's a celebrity you respect? What if someone says something that could really affect your brand? What if they try to destroy you, your business, your puppy, and the horse you rode in on?
Bullying: it's every parent's worst nightmare. It used to be the case that our children were safe once we got them within our own four walls. But not any more. Now bullying can take place right under your nose, with the sorts of digital apps and games that so many children use proving to be a funnel for harmful abuse.
I have to admit that at first I worried that technology companies might not be doing enough on this issue. But as I looked into this more, I realised that technology was also doing something positive. It was bringing the quiet and often hidden tragedy of bullying into the open where we could finally see it. To school-age children today, there is no difference between their online and offline lives. Bullying is bullying, wherever it happens... Digital technology is creating new opportunities for positive and encouraging stories to be shared and to let vulnerable people know that they are not alone.
Today's amazing technology means we can easily keep in touch with friends and family abroad and share our life experiences with our nearest and dearest, but it comes at a price. Our text conversations have jumped over to real life as we shun the use of please and thank you and speak in abbreviations.
We need to get our children talking about these issues: facing up to them and admitting there is a problem is half the battle. We need to use the power of the internet and the media to spread the word and to open up the communication channels so that our children know they have someone to go to and that they are not alone.
Could it be, with the Armed Forces actively distancing themselves from nationalist propaganda, parody pages like Britain Furst lampooning such fear-mongering, and artists like Waldhauer drawing attention to the omnipresence of racist content, that that the days of casual xenophobia on Facebook may finally be numbered?
These people are sophisticated in their approach with details, links, info etc. and you simply have to follow their guidelines. It was with baited breath that I decided the only way forward was to pay them - much to my disgust. Within ten minutes of them receiving the payment I received the key to decrypt my files.
Children from the age of five are in fact using shared school platforms, instant messaging, social gaming and even photo-sharing sites - all places we may consider to be generally 'safe'. However, in reality this is exactly where children may be most exposed to the risk of cyber-bullying, and we might not even know about it.