Internet is not a Safe Zone
More than half a million predators lurk online everyday, hidden behind the keys of a message board, according to InternetSafety101. Young people spend the majority of their time tirelessly typing, searching, and browsing behind their illuminated screens, and consequently, Internet safety has become a prevalent concern, specifically within the school community. The security of people, particularly teenage students, needs to be strongly addressed.
In light of the presentation delivered by Internet safety expert, author, and speaker Jesse Weinberger, students have had an unnerving amount to reflect on and possibly have been prompted to evaluate their online habits. The presentation was said to be both alarming yet beneficial, and disturbing yet necessary. It seems as if issues such as cyber bullying and MySpace spam are so 2006, instead leaving behind terrorizing realities in their place: the threat of adult predators, the illegal norm of sexting, and provocative “high school life” publicized on social media. Teen’s expectations of all information being available on the web is juxtaposed with concern of privacy, highlighting the truth that anything published on the Internet never truly disappears.
Weinberger herself claimed that she could load every Snapchat ever sent in a matter of seconds. She said, “Teens have naïve expectations about what’s truly out there and underestimate others’ capabilities of manipulating a device the right way. They think that the frightening things they hear about are never going to happen to them. Newsflash: it might be happening right now.”
Teens have naïve expectations about what’s truly out there and underestimate others’ capabilities of manipulating a device the right way. Jesse Weinberger
Some Social Media Sites are Unsafe
Weinberger also made it evident that online activity is susceptible to alter as students grow older. Within the school community, nearly all students in grades 7-12 reported to own and regularly use their smartphone; however, the most popular applications vary in correlation to grade level. Almost all students use Instagram and Snapchat, yet teens in grades 9-12 are more prone to be active on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Kids in grades 7-8 often videochat using Skype, Ovoo, and Omegle, all of which have been statistically proven by Weinberger to be unsafe if abused. In comparison, most high school students only use FaceTime, which is considerably safer.
Additionally, almost all students admitted to receiving messages from people or accounts that they don’t know. Weinberger said, “The message you receive on Instagram may not be kids from other schools that want to get to know you. They could be 56-year-old men wanting to meet you.” Furthermore, almost all students, regardless of age, have felt “threatened” on the Internet. This could include seeing something inappropriate, receiving questionable messages, and feeling unsafe in general. Nevertheless, students assured that their social media accounts were private, yet many expressed they’d be worried if college admission counselors were to see their private posts.
The message you receive on Instagram may not be kids from other schools that want to get to know you. JESSE WEINBERGER
Using the Internet with Precaution
Inevitably, opinions outwardly vary about the responsibility of safe Internet activity. For adults, many parents and teachers are extremely concerned about the younger generation, considering the excessive use of social media. Mrs. Littlejohn, Instructor in Mathematics and mother of two teens, said, “As a parent, it’s difficult to keep track of my children’s behavior online, but I ensure that there’s a foundation of trust between them and I. As a teacher, it’s different because I understand that students use the Internet for not only social matters, but academic as well.”
On the other hand, teenagers often feel that using the Internet with precaution is a trivial task. Connor Lesko (`16) who actively uses social media, said, “It’s been drilled into this generations’ minds that there are predators online so much that we’ve become desensitized to it. Everyone knows that the Internet can be dangerous, but it’s hard to constantly be careful because everyone our age spends so much time on social media.”
Not only do more young people have access to the Internet than ever before, but they also utilize it regularly, too. Schools, including Gilmour, frequently incorporate the Internet into their curriculum and encourage online research for projects. Even as teens grow savvier regarding their use of the Internet, it can still be a dangerous place. Fortunately, most dangers can be avoided if people learn about smart Internet use.