We all know that kids love to play pranks – it is just part of childhood. Whether it is whoopee cushions, switching the salt and the sugar or good old plastic spiders, harmless pranks can be fun and actually a good way of teaching kids resilience.
But unfortunately, when kids take jokes online it is not always a happy ending. Online jokes and pranks AKA ‘cyber pranks’ are an emerging trend amongst tweens and teens who have clearly moved on from plastic spiders.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am not a wet blanket. There have been some online pranks that I think have been totally hilarious. But they were carefully thought through, the ‘pranker’ knew the ‘victim’ would take the joke in good humour, the prank wasn’t mean or spiteful and no-one got hurt.
With more and more teens using the online world as their ‘pranking’ playground, there has been an increase in the number of pranks that have just gone too far. In some cases, it could be argued that the cyber prank is really cyberbullying. And whilst I am not going to detail all of the tactics that are emerging as favourites (for obvious reasons) here are a few that will give you a flavour:
- Setting up fake Facebook and Instagram accounts. Teens have been charged with this in the US.
- Creating ads in online classifieds for adult services or hot concert tickets and including the contact numbers of the prank victim
- Hacking social media passwords and making outrageous or inappropriate comments
- Photoshopping photos. There was an episode of The Office (British version) dedicated to this.
So what can we do about it? It’s all about education and communication. Start a (non-threatening) conversation with your tween or teen about cyber pranks. Ask them what they know. Explain how people can get hurt and how reputations could be tarnished or even shattered. And remind them that there is absolutely nothing funny about that!
‘Till Next Time
Stay Safe Online