Closed-circuit TV cameras, dashcams and “citizen journalists” working via cell phones and blogs have changed our notion of news. Many people now rely on social media to read the news, instead of traditional media outlets.
But this has left the gullible vulnerable—they help spread inaccurate, or worse, false reports that damage the reputation of the subjects.
Now translate such scenarios happening to your children, family or friends. How can you undo damage that has snowballed to massive proportions?
In a recent story that went viral, a driver was caught on a video camera arguing with an ambulance driver. As the video began, the driver could be heard defending himself, saying that he knew the ambulance was coming because he could hear the siren, which was why he stopped his van on the side of the road. The road was narrow, and so the ambulance and van collided.
Blogs cherry-picked information from the video. Passengers inside the van were shocked at how quickly events unfolded and made it look like their driver was the guilty party.
The incident was filed in a police blotter, the driver wasn’t able to air his side of the story, and his identity was made public. Threats were made by online bashers, who posted photos from his Facebook account showing his children.
Everyone was quick to vilify and make judgments, focused on an ambulance’s right of way—all the while ignoring that the van driver did pull over to give way.
While the latest technology like nannycams can help us watch our homes while we are away, children are still exposed to internet dangers such as cyberbullying, identity theft and data mining.
Still, some parents seem to find no problem in creating social media accounts for their kids under 18.
“There is an undeniable pressure on children to integrate into a system which their peers have deemed as ‘cool,’” Anitha Swaminathan of Mobicip said.
Mobicip.com is a leading internet safety and parental control service for mobile devices.
“The compulsion to join and maintain a fashionable social media profile is straining the lives of millions of children and young adults around the globe,” Swaminathan said, “stunting their cognitive abilities and personality development in the long run. Over 95 percent of children in the United States between 13 and 18 are on social media.”
She added: “Owners of social media platforms have failed to foolproof the registration process. Fake account holders and propagators of hate are arguably the biggest threat to society today.
Children should be made to understand that everything they say or do online leaves behind a digital footprint, she pointed out. They may also be exposed to fake news and cyberbullying.
Keep an eye on kids
So, what can we do?
“Until social media matures into a space for healthy collaboration and learning for children, parents have to keep an eye on their children’s online activity,” Swaminathan said. “But parents should not go about it in an overbearing fashion that could embarrass their children.”
She explained that schools need to take on part of the moral responsibility to properly educate kids about the consequences of having an uber-active social media profile: “The education system needs to address the issue of cyberbullying and work carefully to nurture children in a healthy way and equip them with the necessary support system it takes to handle and report bullying.
“Not even adults are spared the ill effects of social media: fake news, fake accounts and online hate.”
Swaminathan noted that “several children are unwilling to attend school because of fear of confrontation with online bullies. Many adults would be heartbroken by the intense pressures and pains that children have to go through in today’s digital world.
“Peer pressure and addiction mean far different and far more damaging things now than they did 20 years ago. As our children take on this new world of online bullying and cyber crimes, we need to join forces with them to tackle these issues together.”
So, by all means, monitor your children’s online activity. Teach them how to distinguish fake news from fact by relying on trustworthy sources of information, having a healthy sense of skepticism and not immediately jumping to conclusions. –CONTRIBUTED