I am a teacher and I work a lot with digitalization, but I am also a parent and I see how children can at worst behave towards each other in digital worlds. What worries me is how little other adults care about what's going on. When you don't understand, you dismiss it by saying that "they had a fight in some game". Here, the whole adult world must stop turning a blind eye and dare to enter the digital world where children spend so much of their time. It is very much as real as what we call the real world.
This week it happened again! A crying child called and told me that her house in Minecraft had been destroyed by other children that she thought she could trust. I didn't need to ask why she called me and no other adult. I'm simply the only adult in their lives who listens and takes this kind of problems (this kind of bullying!) seriously. I'm no expert in Minecraft, but I made a decision to try to understand what had happened. The conversation sounded something like this:
The girl (crying): They have destroyed my entire house that I had built in my world in Minecraft!
Me: What house?
The girl: I had built it myself. You build all the houses yourself in Minecraft.
Me: Did it take a long time to build?
The girl: I had been working on it for probably a month and made doors and secret chambers and curtains and everything! (At those words she sounded really desperate and cried so hard she could hardly get the words out. I felt that I had to get to the bottom of this).
Me: But how could they get into your world and destroy it? Can anyone enter into other people's worlds?
The girl: I let them in to show them how pretty I had made it. Those guys are my classmates and they play Minecraft too. I wanted to play with them and so I let them in, but then they started to break everything and laugh in the chatroom!
Me: Is there any way to get your house back. Can they give it back?
The girl: No, it's gone forever.
Me: I'll talk to these guys! They can most definitely not do that! I can not recreate your house, but I'll really talk to them, you can be sure of that! It's not okay to destroy anything that someone else has created and they will hear about that!
The girl sounded grateful that someone cared about her and thanked me for listening.
When I got hold of the boys, they were first and foremost surprised that any adult reacted at all. After a while, they admitted that they actually did destroy the house, but they didn't find it so serious. I had to spend some time explaining that it is as wrong to destroy something that someone has created on a computer as it is to destroy something that someone has created in any other way. It does not matter if it is a house someone built in Lego, a model airplane that someone is proud of, a pearl necklace, an embroidered cushion or a house built in Minecraft, it is simply not okay to destroy other peoples belongings! And that's a fact! The time the other person spent on what they created is just as real no matter how they did it.
The two guys looked ashamed but if I did not imagine it, they were actually a bit impressed at the same time! Here was an adult who knew what they were doing and took it as seriously as they did. They did not expect that and that is exactly why we have a problem!
When the adult world treats the digital arena as a place you don't really want or "could" enter, it becomes the adult-free place that does not really follow the same rules as the rest of the world. That is why it's not quite as wrong to send a hateful text message as it is to say something mean to someone. The digital life becomes a parallel life where the adult world stays at a comfortable distance and the meanest unfortunately often wins.
That's exactly why cyberbullying is such a big problem! The adults who surround the children must step up and start to take place in the kid's digital lives and get to know their games and interactions. There will only be tears otherwise. And the tears are just as real even if it "only happened in some game"!
Get back to the blog. . .
I am the technician who became a librarian, but who got tired of the quiet and peaceful life at the library and started working as a teacher. I brought with me everything I knew about databases, information retrieval and networks and soon I was an ICT-educator. Today, I work as a teacher at Komvux in Norrköping.
I have always had a nerdy great interest in technology. I can find interest in everything from robots to model railroads or the steel industry of the industrial revolution. Technology should take us forward and prevent us from everything boring. You need to dare to be somewhat lazy and ask yourself if there is no easier way to get something done. The human desire to get away is what has driven the technical development and find time for other things. Like model railroads, for instance!
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