Social networks are as old as humanity itself. Like-minded people have formed associations for any number of reasons long before the Internet came into existence.
But the Internet has proven to be the ideal environment for social networks. Low cost, easy access, relative anonymity and virtually no restrictions as to content and behaviour have seen it grow at a phenomenal rate. There isn’t a teenager I know who doesn’t have at least a couple of online profiles!
Yet, social networking sites harbour many dangers: They are the favourite hunting ground for cyber criminals, from sexual predators to scammers trying to steal personal information. But most of the negative effects are actually generated by teenagers themselves. Risky behaviour, like careless disclosure of very personal information and the propensity to ridicule others are but two examples.
Here are some sobering statistics:
A recent survey found that 10% of teenagers had posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.
A staggering 25% of teenagers admitted to having
- posted something they later regretted
- made fun of or bullied others
- created a false identity
The Internet, it seems, has no rules. It is capable of being a tremendous force for good. But it is just as capable of reducing a nation and its people to the lowest common denominator!
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King
Who could forget one of the most stirring speeches of the 20th century – To be found on the Internet – as easily as pornography!
So, with no rules, no restrictions and good and evil side by side, one could argue that allowing children to plug into the Internet unsupervised, it like dropping them off at Fortitude Valley on Friday night, with a pat on the head and a promise to pick them up in the morning.
The Devils Advocate I may be, but I am not advocating abstinence, sweeping restrictions or lamenting parental shortcomings. What I am advocating is caution and a commitment to learn more about the pitfalls of the Internet in general and social networks in particular.
Let’s face it: The Internet is here to stay and, judging by the phenomenal success of sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, so are social networks! For more information, links to informative websites, guidance for concerned parents/carers and views from some of our young residents go to www.jacobswell.com.au and click on TechTips.