Active change makes the internet safer for all
Fionn offers his tips for staying safe online
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The cure for these so called “trolls” is to simply ignore them."
The internet has in the last decade become the prominent hub in which people of all ages, colours and creeds engage with one another through a network of ever expanding channels. With the internet being such an open ended platform for digital activity, it invites both benevolence and malevolence in equal measure. Children now have easier access to the internet than any previous generations, it is an all-enveloping, inescapable force of modern technology. This makes it difficult to shield children from the darker recesses of the web. It also allows for the easy operation of monetary scams, hacking and other activities such as trolling.
It's important that you are informed about the dangers of the internet. There is then the issue of cyber-bullying. A horrible contemporary problem that has plagued society for some time now. This isn’t actually down to the internet though, it’s down to the child not understanding the damage that bullying can actually do. Any child can get a hold of someone on social media or find out their number and harass them. It is down to the parent to ensure that, online or no, their child understands the grave ramifications bullying can have.
For teenagers the internet can prove to be even more of a treacherous landscape. Social media is largely used by teenagers and young adults for most things, sharing content, consuming news and even dating. This opens them up to practices such as trolling, catfishing and it further opens the floodgates for potential abuse from other users.
Catfishing for example can be humorous on MTV but it can in fact be emotionally scarring in reality. Tinder is an immensely popular app among young Irish people and underage girls and boys have been known to lie about their age in their bio, as the required age for use of the app is eighteen. This could make for a troubling meet-up with an older man or woman. So be careful who you interact with on dating apps and be particularly prudent with anyone who wants to meet you if you are under eighteen.
Trolling is another activity that has encompassed the internet in a labyrinth of bad taste and provocation. The cure for these so called “trolls” is to simply ignore them. They require a reaction as fodder for their arsenal and if you give them nothing then they have nothing to sustain their absurd past-time. Without a retort the troll has effectively just made an obscene statement that could get them into trouble with site regulators regardless. If the comment is offensive, don’t reply, just report it and get them removed or cautioned by the website administrators.
Be wary of hacks. Random messages on Facebook, clickbait links that you’ve noticed circulating among your friends, any advertisement that asks you to invest money. Facebook and similar forums have algorithms set in place to combat this, nonetheless some of this rubbish will seep into your messages or onto your news feed. Curiosity might demand that you find out what the video with your face as the thumbnail is, but you must have resolve and ignore it. Once again you can always report it. It will help diminish the number of dubious links that make their way onto these sites in future.
In conclusion the primary defence mechanism against illicit or unethical activity online is good, trusty common-sense. If someone you’ve never seen before wants to be your friend or starts talking to you out of the blue, don’t engage them. Websites that inundate your monitor with pop-ups, overzealous or hyperbolic ads that flash big money, listen to your intuition and avoid these. You will be better off for it.
Be active, be safe, be the change.