This reminds me of a Ted talk by Jon Ronson where he talk about a PR woman who made a joke in poor taste about aids. She got on a plane and fell asleep and the world gathered around on Twitter, giggling, having gotten her fired and collectively worked to rip their life to shreds. They lied and said her father was a billionaire (rather than a man who sold carpets) to avoid feeling empathy while they ravenously waiting to for her world to come crashing down around her ears.
I’ve had many personal experiences with this kind of thing and I do feel the internet greatly exacerbates the situation. It’s easier to lie and to spread false information and for that information to be seen and spread and so fourth. However, I’m of the rather pessimistic belief that deep down inside each human is a desire to be better than someone else. As long as you are better than someone then you aren’t the worst right? So if you can cut them down you’ll be better. It’s like you’re being chased by a lion and you know you don’t have to be the fastest, you just have to out run the fat guy with the weak heart.
When I was younger I was bullied very severely, to the point of nearly taking my own life. It radically changed and tinted my view of the world from a very young age and turned me into a racist. I wrote a piece about it, but essentially shitty people help make shitty people. The problem with the internet isn’t just the lack of social cues, it’s the echo chamber effect. We tend to group together into communities that share our interests, thoughts, feelings. We have the ability to opt out of hearing outside opinions and just receive affirmation for our own in a huge circlejerk. People who have raised themselves in an echo chamber are unlikely to react well to an opposing view, in your case letting your kid have free reign of the TV. Their mouths start moving before their brains can catch up because they KNOW you are wrong, because they have a confirmation biased.
The only way around it is to do as you did and be nice to the point they either realizer they’re being an arsehole or other people do. Great piece by the way