Online friends & social Media:

The internet is a fantastically wonderful, scary, and dangerous place – that can offer both solace and danger in equal measures.

But, please do not get caught in the trap of assuming that social media is the source of all the problems and ills that befall young people today. Yes it can certainly be troublesome but it can equally be the only source of support a vulnerable young person is able to access. And don’t forget that there are as many adults that are being caught out by the same troubles on the internet – adults are not immune either.

It can’t be denied that Social media is playing an ever increasing and important role in our everyday life. Young people are spending more time on line and having more social interactions in the virtual world – whether via video games such as X-box live or via facebook, snapchat or whatever the latest platform may look like.

But think why this might be… from the days when politicians spoke about young people as antisocial hoodies – and the increasing fears about how unsafe we all are –  young people generally are spending less time hanging around outside – they don’t have the same access to youth clubs – as there aren’t many left… so instead they are left in their bedroom with a smartphone or a tablet…

The great thing is we can stay connected – we have unprecedented access like never before to tap in to the lives of our friends at any hour of the day, to see what they are doing, look at their pictures and find out how they are feeling (or how they seem to be feeling)… but here also lies the problem… there is no sign off… and the access we get is always edited through an idealised lens – how many selfies did you take and filters did you try before you posted that ‘natural look’ online? Everyone has a perfect life…

Watch this:

Indeed, the grass always looks greener – as a result young people report that social media makes them feel bad about themselves and more alone. Even with over a 1000 friends…

And here lies another danger –  who are all those friends and how well do you really know them…?

It is very easy to befriend a young person online. Depending on their privacy settings – you can see where the go to school, what music, tv shows, and movies they like. You can track their movements as they check in at various places – we can find out whats bothering them – if they have fallen out with their folks -whatever – you can unpick their whole life and make a connection. Before we even meet I know what buttons to press to make it sound like I ‘get them’ and we have a real connection… this is called grooming…

However, whilst the internet can be a dangerous place to meet new people – it can also be a saving grace. If you are a vulnerable young person that is suffering, feels alone, or misunderstood – there are plenty of places to make a connection with someone who understands and can support you. There are supportive chatrooms and groups where like minded people can meet and support each other…

With every danger there is also a protective factor…

The internet is neither good or bad – it is simply an empty room… the room itself isn’t dangerous… but there may be dangerous people in it from time to time – there may be people dressed up, pretending to be someone they aren’t… but equally there may be people there who are only there to help…

The key is to give young people the tools to navigate the room safely. To protect their privacy, and understand – that the same rules and qualities we have for managing friendships in the real world also apply online.

Your worth can not be measured in followers, likes or the number of shares you acquire. Trolling – like another form of abuse is simply not acceptable. If you write something online – you are making it public – the internet is a public platform – it is the equivalent of reading out a notice in assembly…

There are some great resources around internet safety on the CEOP website.

Back to menu

D(:)ing It! Secondary School RSE Training & Resource Package
©Copyright Going off the Rails 2016 All rights reserved (all wrongs learnt from)