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.
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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.
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.