The Internet is a powerful tool, and social media has become a natural extension. It can bring us together, facilitate connections and networking, and allow never-before-seen access to educational materials and resources. Building upon the myriad of lines of code and digital media, we could become something greater. We could change the world. But, what are the Benefits of Social Media? What are the Benefits of the Internet? How do we learn to cope in this ever-evolving (and often confusing) digital landscape? Learn more about safety on the internet.
The framework has already been laid. For our collective parts, we just need to find ways to overcome some of the more violent and destructive elements of the Internet and social media.
Safety on the Internet: What is Social Media?
Social sharing is the basis for a collection of tools that are collectively known as “social media.” So, when you hear someone say, “I’m posting to social media,” they could be posting to any of the many social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Google+. They could also be referring to video sharing (via Youtube or Vimeo), as well as blogging or community sites via any of the numerous available platforms. Each of the channels for social media communication allows you to interact with technology and other human beings.
You can share your personal story, interact with the experiences of others, and develop multimedia experiences for yourself and your community. Only basic skills are often required. Anyone can participate, but that unique proposition also lends itself to abuse.
If you’ve had any experience with social media at all, you’ve likely seen (or heard about) some stories about cyberbullying. In simple terms, it’s not really any different from violent language and behaviour you may witness (or experience in everyday life). What makes online abuse so dangerous is that the cyberbully might not have really said (or done) it, if they found themselves in similar situations in real life (IRL). Once they get behind the computer, even the most seemingly even-keel individuals can say cruel and heartless. They can say and do things that they might never have considered actually perpetrating under other circumstances.
Safety on the Internet: Benefits of Social Media
With social media, we access a wealth of information and resources. If you can imagine it, you can likely find it on the Internet (and by extension, on social media). Of course, access is also a 2-way proposition. If we have access to unlimited amounts of data, security is also a concern, because how do we protect (and secure) that information?
As parents, we want our children to be safe, but we also want them to learn from the experience of others. But, we also need to be aware that our family’s safety starts with our own safe practices on the Internet. If we follow safe practices and teach our children, family and friends to do the same, we’re moving in the right direction. Also, if we end up finding ourselves in a situation where we (or those we love) are experiencing cyberbullying, we will all know how to protect ourselves: blocking the bully, reporting the problem to authorities, and letting people online know!
Cyberbullying is not a joke, although those who say and do cyber-pranks online often think it is…
With social media, we are inundated with a difference, a unique opportunity. We are able to interact with individuals of every race, ethnicity, age, gender, and religious background.
C. JoyBell C. wrote: “We are all equal in the fact that we are all different. We are all the same in the fact that we will never be the same. We are united by the reality that all colours and all cultures are distinct & individual. We are harmonious in the reality that we are all held to this earth by the same gravity. We don’t share blood, but we share the air that keeps us alive. I will not blind myself and say that my black brother is not different from me. I will not blind myself and say that my brown sister is not different from me. But my black brother is he as much as I am me. But my brown sister is she as much as I am me.”
So, we’re different, with unique life experiences, fears, dreams and hopes that are sometimes at odds. We can learn to grow through our differences, and learn from one another, or we can use those differences to force further wedges between us. We can teach (and learn) how to work together toward common goals.
Education is always possible, but we also have to be willing to learn, with an open mind. The difference also means that someone can feel left out, as an outsider. Fortunately, while social media can be the public face of cyberbullying, it can also contribute to many of the solutions that help us to prevent and support the recovery of victims’ online abuse.
Social media allows us to reach a community of like-minded individuals. We can reach (and maintain contact with) friends, family, and colleagues. We can interact, learn from each other, and also voice differing opinions. We can build (and/or become a part of) communities on any possible topic.
A community can protect its own. If you’re part of a safe community, with open communication and clear boundaries, there’s less of a likelihood that you and your family will be adversely affected by cyberbullying and other forms of online abuse. Also, if you are in a community that takes an interest in your life/lives, they will likely tell you if your actions are being perceived as inappropriate or offensive.
The Internet and social media allow us to present our sense of self and identity in a way that may be different from the way we may have been perceived in the past. The digital landscape also lends itself to the perception that we are anonymous, that anything we say or do is anonymous.
The reality is that all of our actions have consequences. We don’t operate in a vacuum, nor are we ever really anonymous. There’s always the chance that you’ve met or know someone online who–for whatever reason–means you harm. Even if they aren’t formally cyber stalking you (and your family), their actions may be affecting your life in ways you may not be able to imagine. Who would do that, right? Why would someone go out of their way to ruin your reputation? In some online-abuse situations, you may never know the “why”–it often doesn’t make a lot of sense.
There are steps you can take to help avoid a situation that gets out of hand. Don’t take it lightly! Never discount the fears that others may have experienced online. Just because you haven’t yet experienced a bad online situation doesn’t mean that they don’t happen on a regular basis. You may just have been lucky. Or, you may not be perceived as a target.
Safety on the Internet: What You Can Do to Protect Your Family!
- Be aware (Be conscious of what you do and say online, and know what your kids are doing when they’re online)
- Learn about netiquette (What is appropriate behaviour online? Make sure your family ALL knows the behaviour that
- Talk about it (make sure your family and friends know about your concern)
- If you experience online abuse and/or cyberbullying, take action: block the person from contact (you may also need to remove yourself from any groups in which they’re also involved–you can also contact the group moderators/admin, explain the situation and ask that the bully be removed from the group)
- Also, talk about it (discuss appropriate behaviour, make sure that your family and friends know about your concern, and talk about your personal experiences with online bullying)
The Internet–and social media, in particular–opens up so many new worlds for us to experience, learn and grow. Like so many other really great feats of technology and the imagination, there are dangers! Cyberbullying is among the more troubling of the online side-effects we experience with such a state of constant interaction. We are “in” each others’ lives all the time: minute-by-minute, second-by-second. We can grow to love our online community of friends. They help us to become ourselves. They cry with us, laugh at all our jokes, and even offer many virtual hugs. They become as real, and as important to our lives as our family (in some sense they are “family”).
In our eagerness to embrace our new friends, and the many advantages of cyber-culture–in this wide world of social media and the Internet, we must be constantly mindful that not everyone is our friend. Not everything we read or hear is real or true.