Facebook is rotting away the word “friend.”
Just like the word “green,” its overuse has eaten its substance; leaving it hollowed out.
The scrutiny once reserved for those who make our “friend” list melts away online. A Facebook “friend” is everything from someone you met briefly while standing in line for a beer to someone you never have met at all; they just happened to be on your friend’s profile and shared the same taste in music.
But just like street smarts, people need cyber smarts. And herein lies the problem. Like the Galapagos marine iguanas who first encountered humans, many people aren’t wary of “friendships” formed in the ever-growing social media frontier.
A study published by Jennie Noll, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center psychologist, indicated that teenage girls are taking some big cyber risks. Out of 173 girls in the research — between the ages of 14 to 17 — 40 per cent of them reported online sexual advances and 26 per cent stated they had met someone in person who they met online first.
“The importance of parental monitoring of adolescent Internet use cannot be understated,” Noll stated in a press release. “This is particularly important given that 55 per cent of adolescent Internet users have or are currently using social networking websites.”
This week, Victoria Police Department Staff Sgt. Darren Laur came to Howe Sound Secondary School to speak about social media safety. With more than 27 years in law enforcement, Laur has spoken to more than 92,000 students.
It’s a good first step, but parents and youth need to take on some of the responsibility. And we need to aim younger. As soon as kids can talk, they’re using the Internet. Although most social media sites have age regulations, most people don’t abide by them.
Just like a parent wants to know where one’s child is hanging out in town, they need to understand where they child is hanging out online. From there, the education piece starts for both parties. Parents and youth need to understand what online information is public and private and the nature of online predictors.
In today’s world, being street smart simply isn’t good enough. While the Internet has opened up a world of benefits, from global awareness to education, it’s also opened up a new arena for bullying and criminal activity. Explore its many regions, meet new people, try new activities, but be wary of the back alleys.