How life has changed since the advent of the internet. The fact that most people on this planet have access to the wealth of human knowledge is something we often take for granted, and indeed children nowadays think of pre-internet times as virtually prehistoric. But as Uncle Ben once wisely told Peter Parker, "with great power comes great responsibility". Today is Safer Internet Day, so what better time to think about what you share online and how you can protect yourself.
What is the problem?
The internet gives us instant access to all kind of digital resources, and there is no doubt it is a fantastic tool that has revolutionised the modern world. However, not everything that you will find online is trustworthy, and not everyone on the other end of a connection has your best interests at heart. The sad reality is that there is an abundance of scammers, hackers, bullies, and more, and the consequences of an encounter with them may be difficult to remedy.
The UK Safer Internet Centre has published research showing that sharing content online is viewed as critical to connecting with the world. However, they say that "a lack of clarity around consent causes confusion and young people struggle to navigate ‘the rules’."
Source: UK Safer Internet Centre report
The research also revealed that the large majority of young people feel that being online is crucial to keeping up to date with topical issues and would feel disconnected from the world without it. However it seems that there is a disconnect between the values people express about what online behaviour should be like, and what it is actually like. "Young people have a strong sense of right and wrong online, with an overwhelming 84% believing everyone has a responsibility to respect others. However, in practice almost half (48%) admit their peers don’t always think before they post. 36% of young people are sharing screenshots of other peoples’ photos, comments or messages at least weekly." Furthermore the research found that "in the last year over half of young people (52%) said someone they know shared a photo or video of them without asking."
So what can you do to protect yourself?
Google has published some helpful advice which is well worth a read. They have developed a set of tools aimed at children to help them learn about the potential risks online and how to avoid them. These tools help children to become 'Internet Legends', but the advice is useful to people of all ages. Check out the main points here:
- Think before you share; if you wouldn't say it in person, don't share it online.
- Personal details about you or anyone else should stay private.
- Think about whether something is real or fake before accepting or sharing it; if something seems to good to be true it probably is.
- Be on your guard for phishing (where someone tries to obtain personal information, such as passwords or personal information)
- Protect yourself with password software, and don't use the same password on different sites.
- Be kind, and treat others how you wish to be treated.
- If you see any inappropriate online behaviour, such as bullying, report the person and block them.
- If you're unsure about a situation, ask someone for help.
Google have even released a free game called Interland to help children learn about internet safety.
Social media has had such a massive impact on how things are done nowadays that people often think nothing about sharing really personal information and photos online. Unicef have published a video encouraging people to think twice before sharing personal information online. Not only do people share things about themselves, but in many cases they share information about other people which should only ever be done with permission. Check out the thought-provoking video below.
If you want to learn more, you can visit UK Safer Internet Centre.
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