On Wednesday, May 28th, No Hate Speech Movement Ireland and Co-operation Ireland come together to host an event for youth workers, teachers and young adults about internet safety and countering hate speech online. We asked Iulia Padeanu from Co-operation Ireland to tell us about the event and why it is so important.
Take a second and imagine a day without the internet. Seriously, try to imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have access to instant messaging, emails, Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, edited photos of your friends on Instagram. What would it be like, traveling to a new place without the help of online reviews? How could you find your way around a city without Google maps?
It is almost impossible at this point to imagine a world without such inventions. The internet has become such a vital part of our human existence it is genuinely difficult to imagine day-to-day life without it. Even this very blog post, accessed through the internet would probably never have reached you, had it not been for the great vast world that is the World Wide Web.
And, to be fair, it is a new world. It is a boundless, limitless world where anyone can access almost anything. It is a world where we have every bit of information at our fingertips, where we can ask a search engine an answer that may have taken days, if not weeks to find before.
While there are literarily endless possibilities on the internet, we should also be honest with ourselves about the dangers that are lurking in its shadows. Are these dangers any different to what we face in real-life interactions? I would argue that they are not, but, unlike the dangers that we face when we head out into the real world, we have not yet had the time and experience to know how to adequately protect ourselves against these similar dangers that now exist in a different context.
Social media has become the venue for most of our online communication. Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, they dominate our lives. A lot of what happens on social media is safe, fun, and helps bring people closer together. There are however, without a doubt, a host of individuals on social media that are there to provoke, anger, and upset.
Think of how much fuss everyone made when teenagers started getting mobile phones, or laptop computers. The solution to protecting our children isn’t to take away devices that give them a world of information and knowledge. Rather, it is our duty and our responsibility to try to understand them, to learn from them, and use the experiences we have to show them how to protect themselves, how to fight cyber bullying and how to stand up to things like harassment and hate speech.
We wouldn’t tell a child to stop going to school because they have to face a bully; we would help them stay strong and face their fears. Sure, sometimes it is important to walk away, to turn off our computer, to delete accounts that have made us unhappy. But let us not cast a wide, negative net all around the internet and especially social media.
If you are interested in participating a more in-depth debate about the issues mentioned above, join us on Wednesday, May 28th at the Embracing our Cyber Worlds: Internet and Social Media Safety and Countering Hate Speech Online event. This is a Cooperation Ireland (IOR-Ireland) and NYCI (No Hate Speech Movement) event for youth workers, teachers, and young adults. Participants will be given a set of practical tools that they can take away with to share with their youth groups, organisations, and friends. It will take place at the Woodquay Venue from 10:00am – 4:30pm and there is no cost for attending. To reserve a place please book in advance.