Primary school “paedophile” prompts cyber-bullying panic

The Guardian is reporting that pupils as young as 10 in Padstow, Cornwall, may have been posing as paedophiles online in order to bully their peers.

“Police initially believed a local man was trying to groom the children by befriending them online and arranging to meet them.”

The subsequent discovery that it was probably just a bunch of kids winding each other up seems to have prompted a Bostonic over-reaction[1]:

“This will be treated seriously and we will be contacting the families of the children involved and we will try and help them by involving social services” … “It sounds like a very extreme and worrying course of action”.

Crikey. Should we really be calling in social services and the police to deal with 10-year-olds bullying each other? Consider what the response would have been if the the headline had read “Pupils posing as the bogeyman in cyber-bullying, police warn” or even “Pupils posing as teachers in cyber-bullying, police warn”? To me it sounds like the real story is “Bullying buzzwords cause grown-up over-reaction”.

I don’t wish to imply that bullying isn’t a serious issue, but it has to be handled appropriately, proportionately and in the correct context. This constant hysterical frothing in the press over words like “cyber” and “paedophile” is causing more harm than it is selling newspapers. Er, I mean helping kids.

[1] Yes, I have just made up this phrase, based on this fiasco in Boston last year.