Love it or hate it, social media is an integral part of our daily lives. With nearly 3 billion worldwide users, and growing every day, it’s not going anywhere.
If you’re not one of those taking advantage of networking sites, you’re missing out. I’m a firm believer that social media offers benefits for everybody, but only if we are all educated about using it effectively and safely.
Yes, social media can be responsible for the spread of fake news, but it’s us doing the sharing. Yes, it may aid the bullies, giving them a platform to fuel hate, gossip and spread rumours, but we’re being bystanders. And yes, it possibly could pose a security risk to your data if you’re not careful, but we’re feeding these sites our information. It doesn’t have to be this way. Is this the fault of the social media platforms or our fault because of the way in which we use them and our lack of knowledge? Whilst the sites themselves must be responsible for our safety and wellbeing and offer appropriate solutions to these risks, we must also be held responsible. We need to wise up, educate ourselves properly and learn to change and align our habits. Forming our own healthy and positive social media presence.
Once we’ve done this, we can share and educate the next generation. I’m a strong believer that we shouldn’t child-proof the world, we should world-proof the child.
Good parenting, for me, involves teaching children resilience. Not sheltering and overprotecting them, instead equipping them with the knowledge and confidence to find their own footing, coping skills and strength. The same goes for the digital world.
Children are our most valuable resource. Society needs to be much better at updating and evolving it’s use of social media to set a good example. Whilst there should be, there is no social media policy for human kind. We were introduced to these platforms without any understanding of their potential power. Etiquette and rules are not written anywhere, but they should be. It’s currently up to us to use our common sense and morals.
To stop the negative effects often associated with these sites, such as trolling, hacking, identity theft and addiction, children and young people must be educated about the function, power and purpose of these sites before they begin using them.
We don’t have that advantage, we’ve already begun using these sites, often badly. When they were first introduced, we weren’t prepared for the speed and magnitude with which they engulfed our lives; it’s our responsibility to go back to basics and learn now. It is in fact self-endangerment to not equip ourselves suitably.
Everyone needs educating about social media, whether you’re a self-confessed addict, a casual browser or if you’ve had enough and ready to hit the deactivate button. Take some time to follow these 3 steps. They’ll impact your outlook, safety and wellbeing.
1) Educate yourself on the benefits of social media and the positive role the digital world can play in our lives. They far outweigh the negatives. The internet is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. Not only does it allow us to make connections and contact people across the globe, it combats loneliness and offers access to a wealth of services. We can research and review places at the touch of a button, voice our concerns, start petitions and ask for support. Social networks have actual economic value too, allowing us to access and support smaller, local businesses or niche markets, buy, sell and market ourselves. We can access an endless supply of books, films, music and information and join groups or forums with likeminded people. The imminent introduction of AR and VR to these platforms mean we can go anywhere we want. Kids can visit places they wouldn’t normally have access to, what an incredible way to stimulate their learning!
2) Educate yourself on how to use social media safely. Even if you’ve been using social media since (internet) time began, it’s not too late to teach yourself the safety basics. You can easily learn how to use it safely; protecting not only your data and information but your mental health too. I’ve written an article about this here. Go back to basics, check over all your security options, make a plan for how you will use it and begin to develop healthy habits and a positive social media presence. Find a quick guide to social media security checks for each platform here.
3) Educate others. Share your knowledge and good habits with friends, family and children. If we all follow these three steps the next generation will inherit a healthy, safe and positive social presence from us.