Last night I went to a talk on ‘internet security’, particularly with respect to social media, at my son’s primary school, and whilst well intentioned I was both disappointed and annoyed at the premise of the whole talk, which was “the internet and social media are DANGEROUS”.
Clearly, children (and in a lot of cases adults) must be made aware of the silly mistakes that they can make and then regret for ever more. They need to understand that saying something on a social network is like pasting it to a sandwich board and walking up and down the local (or indeed global) high street. It can be seen by everyone. So, for this reason we have to be careful what we say.
And, in fairness, this was communicated by the talk. However, there was a more disconcerting undercurrent. There was a strong inference that social networks were run by evil villains who sought nothing but to publicise their members most intimate secrets and this…is simply not the case.
There are risks in using social tools, there may be dangerous people there who wish to molest children and attack adults. I’m sure there are many such people on Facebook. But, as Facebook now has over a billion members there will be murderers, rapists, Nazis, racists, even the odd decent person, because with three times the population of America on this network there is EVERY kind of person.
But are we and our children really at risk? No, I don’t believe we are. If I am to be attacked or exposed to inappropriate material I would much rather it be on Facebook than in a dark alley on a Saturday night. And if someone is going to take a like to my children, it’s much more likely to happen on a Saturday whilst shopping or on the way to school rather than via a picture on a social network.
The risk for our children is not in using these networks but in failing to understand that not using them will hamper future possibilities both socially and at work.
LinkedIn is responsible for the filling of 80% of all senior job vacancies and 40% of people now meet their life partners online…that’s more than all those that meet at clubs, bars and social functions combined.
So, whilst we must be aware of the dangers to ourselves and our children, scaremongering may hamper our children’s future chances in ways we cannot begin to understand today.