Social Media – Chilling Effects

Online communication has become commonplace in our society, and in some cases, essential. Everything from news, the latest aspects of someone’s social life and the latest celebrity gossip is online now. It’s very likely everyone reading this will have at least one other internet compatible device. The last blog post I wrote concerned how social media changes you, inferring social media as an independent entity. This blog post will concern etiquette, and how people behave online.

I’m sure you will have all by now heard of the 4th, and hopefully last, suicide caused by anonymous social networks, and people “trolling”, bullying and otherwise creating misery. In fact, there has been some speculation as to the origin of the messages in this case, but that is another story.While thinking about those events, I researched some social media site’s child protection policies, and various other information. I was rather shocked to discover the amount of social media sites with flawed policies, or in some cases, no policy at all! It was also apparent that some sites employ moderators at a rate of 250,000 visitors : 1 moderator. Obviously this ratio of staffing is ineffective at stopping any level of cyber bullying online.

There have been a number of reasons why I have been disgusted at the online world lately, most of which I will detail in another blog post, but the fact that no action was taken to fully prevent this after 3 other children have committed suicide, leading to yet another one disgusted me most. This is not only 4 lost lives, but 4 distraught families, 4 shattered communities and 4 more reasons for people to say no to bullying.

It was called for the site to be shutdown, but I don’t think they will stop the problem. Another site will just open in its place. While any two children, or adults, can have an unmoderated private chat between each other, it is possible for bullying to continue. In many cases, the child will report the problem, or be unaffected by the words of those people. It is too much to hope that everyone will be that way.

I think that the ideals of a social networking site need to change. In the case of Ask.FM, millions of pounds are being made from people’s misery. In the case of twitter, Facebook and others, millions more are being made from people who do not use those sites in a kind way. There is a serious issue with the mindset of many people online, one that can, and should be changed, by peer pressure. In fact, it’s become apparent that 1 IN 3 children are effected by cyber bullying! Social media should be about being friendly. Not criticising people.

As digital leaders, I think we not only have a task, in helping people realise their own ability to report abuse, but a duty, to be those who stand up against cyber bullying. The only way to protect privacy while stopping it will be getting children to know when to “Report Abuse”. Our school has about 400 computers installed, and a good 600-900 iPads, as well as numerous other tablets, phones, and internet capable devices. I would hazard a guess that the 1200 pupils probably are surrounded by at least 2000-3000 internet access points. That isn’t counting any owned by family, friends or publicly available ones. Although most online communication is run through some kind of filter at school, SMS, iMessage, 3/4G, Emails and Twitter are all still viable channels for people to send and receive bullying messages.

For everyone that will listen, Digital Leaders should teach, tell or instruct them about online safety. Digital Leaders at Clevedon school are some of the most important allies you can have online. They know, or can find out, your internet rights, they will fight to protect not online your privacy, but to help you deal with any problems you may have online.

– Cody Isaac

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