Children are taught the digital skills needed to resolve online conflicts before they escalate to violence and cyberbullying.
As technology and the internet becomes a part of everyday life for children of an increasingly young age, we have seen initiatives designed to keep them safe as they are exposed to all parts of the internet. For example, the Swiss chatbot which pops up and teaches children about online safety, relaying the information of the child’s progress to the parents. Similarly, Bark is an online monitoring system which notifies parents when their child might be at risk. Agree Online is a scheme which takes a different angle on internet safety, focusing on the effects of cyberbullying and online conflicts, and acknowledging that many children lack the digital skills to resolve them. They aim to equip children with the knowledge required to prevent online conflicts from spiraling out of control.
Agree Online simulates real-life online conflicts, from sharing YouTube videos, to anger in a WhatsApp group, encouraging children to offer their solutions to such an issue. Digital conflicts are unique in their characteristics; escalating rapidly, taking place in front of other members of social media groups, and being preserved over time. This makes them all the more important to nip in the bud, with children having no escape from social media or the internet. Cyberbullying cases can become all-consuming and unavoidable for some children. Agree Online is an educational program that can be used by children from Elementary school up until High school. It consists of a secure online environment which is led by a teacher, and aims to educate children about the values, knowledge, life skills and tools needed to resolve digital conflicts. Children are taught to differentiate between digital conflict and cyberbullying, and how these phenomena might come about. Moreover, the data collected from the scheme is analyzed to investigate the behavior of children involved in digital conflicts and to help improve the advice provided regarding intervention.
As the internet advances and children become more and more involved in online life, it may be that more of these educational schemes are deemed necessary. What else could be done to protect children in the digital sphere? Might their socializing be done predominantly online one day?