Social networking sites are being used as a tool for human traffickers. Check out Amanda Kloer's article on Change.org: Everyone's on Facebook, Even Human Traffickers (note the example she uses is from Calgary, Alberta).
I don't really need to go back into the maelstrom of Craigslist. Suffice it to say, traffickers are online and using technology well.
We need to teach our kids to be tech savvy — ways to stay safe on and offline.
How do we teach them? By example.
I'm not going to get into firewalls or keeping the sense of only one computer in the house (located in a public area), etc. I'm going to talk netiquette.
For those of you who don't know, netiquette is the term used to describe proper and polite words and actions used on the internet. For example, spelling out a word all in capital letters denotes SHOUTING!
With the anonymity that the internet brings, you can say anything and be truly anonymous about it. It is this anonymity (and the fact the law hasn't really caught up with the speed of social networking just yet) that gives cyber-courage to people to say things they wouldn't normally say. And while social networking has done an enormous amount of good, the issue of cyber-bullying is new territory and is on the rise.
The following is my opinion alone. It's what I have seen and experienced online, but still an issue worth taking to task.
It used to be physical snubbing at school was a girl's worst nightmare; or, being beat up in the locker room was a guy's hill to die on. While these things are still prevelant and certainly traumatizing, these days being blocked off someone's Facebook or Twitter accounts are the biggest diss' of all.
Or… to have someone start an FB rumour that you have an STD… download an embarrassing picture of you and spread it around… make horrible comments on your page ("Ur stoopid"…"Gonna kill u"…"ugly pic"…"u gonna get it at school"…).
Pretty blatant. Other than the horrific grammar and spelling, these actions are not acceptable. How can we expect our kids to learn to be safe online when other kids brutalize them?
Because we do it too.
Adults: parents, couples, drunken forays, people with nothing better to do, etc. Except… we tend to be a bit more passive-agressive about it. We'll post things such as:
"My life is falling apart because of so and so. You know who you are! 😦 "
"There are people causing all the bad stuff around here and I know who they are. They're such hypocrites!"
"Some people, and I won't say who because that's gossip, are trying to judge me and my lifestyle!"
So when youth come to me in tears because their friends suddenly tore them to shreds online, thinking it was funny, I ask: "Why don't you take steps to stop it?"
What's the number one answer?
"Why should I? My mom does the same thing. Why should us kids stop beating each other up when you guys are just as bad?"
We can do better, folks. There are predators online who are pro at recruiting and deceiving. If someone makes a public statment and you respond, take responsibility for your words. Yes, there can be a time and place for public discourse and opinion when the opinion is public.
Enough of these petty secret decoder messages meant for one or two people on the face of the planet, but plastered up on your walls for all to see. They might make you feel good and powerful, and put down the other person, but honestly… your character is shining through loud and clear. Enough. Our kids are taking note…
… and they are learning all too well.