Thursday, October 31, 2013

Digital Life: The Consequences of Sharing Online

Don’t you enjoy posting a picture on Instagram now and then? Or maybe uploading a video to Youtube? Many people do, but having a digital life isn’t all fun and games. Lots of people have the opportunity to have a digital life, but, if a user is not careful, the costs of a digital life can significantly outweigh the pros. For example, catfishing, luring, and bullying are all serious consequences that can happen to careless online users.

Having a digital life makes teens easy victims for “catfishing” (creating a fake identity online and deceiving other users). Many teens are targets of catfishing, and even though the people you are talking to or sharing information with online may seem nice and understanding, they might not be who their online identity says they are. One teen in particular, Renamai Balisi, says that he would never get into an online relationship, because he would be afraid they were catfishing him. “And with those types of things, you can never really be sure” Balisi noted. Renamai Balisi had a good point when he said you can never really be sure if someone is catfishing you or not. If you met someone online, and you have never actually seen them in person, then you could be interacting with just about anybody. This fact makes online dating a bit dangerous, because although you could be chatting with a real person with good intentions, there is the risk that someone is catfishing you.

Catfishing can lead to luring. When someone asks to meet you offline, it would be a wise idea to be cautious because you might not end up meeting with the person you thought you were. “...if you think about it, when you are an adolescent girl and you agree to (meet someone offline), most people would agree that that’s a dangerous thing to do.” says Dr. Jennie Noll, the director of research for behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Even though there can be risks when having a digital life, if you are safe and cautious online, your digital experience can be quite enjoyable. A digital life can be a good experience to interact with people you know, and it enables people to communicate with ease or find out information quickly. “...the Internet can act as a big-time mood enhancer; as explained in the infographic, social media makes teens feel more confident, popular, sympathetic, and, ironically, outgoing” reports Sam Gutelle in his article about teens and social media.

Photo shared with  Creative Commons Attribution, 
The most common and perhaps most horrific risk that users face is cyberbullying. Statistics show that nearly one half of teens have been the victims of cyberbullying. More than half of these young people never tell their parents that they have been bullied online. The reason cyberbullying is so horrific is because it can be extremely harmful to teenagers and adolescents. Cyberbullying can cause the victim to have anxiety, depression, and even lead to suicide. In fact, On September 9th, 2013, a twelve year old girl named Rebecca Sedwick killed herself after continuous torment online. Rebecca had been bullied in person by two girls, one of whom was her former friend, at school. “The bullying grew so intense that Rebecca began cutting herself and was sent to a hospital by her mother to receive psychiatric care” reported Lizette Alvarez, from the New York Times paper. Even after Rebecca’s mother switched her to a different school, the bullying continued online. The two girls bullying Rebecca had harassed her using “Kik” and “Ask.fm” as well as Facebook. For me, it seems a bit frightening that a girl as young as twelve years old would find herself in such a bad situation, that she would resort to killing herself to escape from it. The bullying that Rebecca endured got so overwhelming for her that she jumped to her death. In a study that the US National Institutes of Health conducted, they found that the victims of cyber bullying showed more signs of depression than other bullying victims, because the bully can many times be anonymous and relentless.This can make the bullying more frightening and discouraging.

An extremely serious consequence of not being a safe user online is “luring”. Many children, and teenagers, face the dangers of cyberspace and online sexual exploitation. According to a survey done in 2005 by the Youth Internet Safety Survey (YISS), 1 in 3 people using the internet from the ages 10 to 17 was exposed to sexual material that was unwanted. Many kids have online messaging, e-mails, or social media accounts. This makes it extrememly easy for the sexual exploitation of children. Lurers can easily contact children and attempt to find out information about them. If the situation gets grim, and the child is giving out personal information (where they live, how old they are, what school they attend, etc.) then the person luring the child or teen might be able to go to the house of the victim and attempt to harm the child in some way. While this may not be the outcome every time a predator tries to lure a teen or kid, it has happened before, and is a possible outcome of giving out personal information to strangers.

To conclude, all of these factors are reasons why having a digital life can be dangerous and risky for online users. However, if you try to be a cautious user, you will probably be able to avoid things like catfishing, luring, or online bullying. To protect yourself, you need to steer clear of luring, and say “no” if a stranger asks to meet you in person. Even if the person seem good-natured, you truly can’t be sure if they are who they say they are. Being bullied online can be much harder to avoid, but, there are ways to stop it. If you find yourself being bullied online, tell an adult immediately. Also, if you are bullied from a social media site, Instagram for example, you have the ability to put your account on the “private” setting. That way, people have to ask for permission to follow you and see or comment on your pictures. In my opinion, it is important to try to keep track of your privacy settings because it will make it much harder for online bullies to contact you. It may seem unnecessary to take these precautions, but I think they will help in protecting you and your wellbeing.


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Conclusion:
Updated 19 November 2013

Constructing this blog really helped me see how many risks exist when doing things online, and also how easy it is to avoid them. To restate my points, having an online experience can be very fun and enjoyable, but if you are not careful or do not take precautions, there could be serious consequences (such as catfishing, luring, online bullying).  I really appreciate the people that commented on my blog, because their questions and observations made me think more deeply about my topic, however, my opinion has stayed the same even after looking at the comments on my blog. When I took a look at other people’s blogs, there was really interesting and helpful information. I learned a lot from reading the blogs, and I think that the facts I learned will come in handy. I learned about things like the harmful side to gaming (which I hadn’t thought much about), the NSA and my privacy, and women in the media. I really hope that my blog engaged the people that read it as much as theirs did me, and that they found the information that I blogged about useful. I truly enjoyed this project, and I hope the readers of my blog found it thorough and captivating.

5 comments:

  1. Well done, Stephanie! You cover a wide range of issues that we should be careful about when interacting online and sharing information about ourselves. I do wonder, sometimes, if we spend too much time talking about the negative consequences, however. Do you think kids know enough about all the good things that we can do with technology via social media? If we focused less on the dangers and more on how we could use technology to make a positive difference in the world, could that have an impact on our thinking and focus our attention on using technology in better ways?

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    1. Thank you Ms. Gerla! I believe that most kids automatically understand that there are benefits from social media. But, most of the time they will not understand that there are real dangers to having a social media account, or they don't believe that they might be a victim. Although there are lots of good things that can come from social media, I think it's more important that we focus on the dangers, so kids can be more aware. Even if we tried to focus on the positive ways we could use technology, the cyberbullies and dangerous predators wouldn't disappear. Here is an interesting story that you can listen to about how easy it is to be fooled online: http://www.wnyc.org/radio/#/ondemand/137466

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  2. Hello Stephanie, I agree with you on having a digital life is very risky and dangerous. At the end of your blog I liked your tips on how to be safe online and how to react to other users online and how to “no”. I like how you have examples to a real life problem like how people online be seem to be good natured but you need to be careful. I also enjoyed reading about luring and catfishing online and how teens are easy victims to catfishing. I wondered if the media has done something about this. I enjoyed reading your blog stephanie. - Le Master Trole

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  3. Hey Stephanie,
    Thanks for sharing in depth some of the dangers people might face online. I think all three of these topics are very interesting, and I feel like I have learned a lot about them. You also have shared a good way to prevent some of these things from happening. Also I was wondering what consequence in your opinion is the worst?
    -Marissa

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    1. Hello Marissa,
      thanks for asking that great question! In my opinion, the worst consequence is online bullying, because it can really harm kids and teens. Lots of teens have committed suicide or self harmed because of online bullying, so that's why I think it's the worst consequence. If you're interested, here is a link to some information on online bullying. http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html

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