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We need to stay safe on the internet

Posted on: 13th February 2019 | Category: Academic Programmes, Surval Life

Lupita, FY, Mexico, has been studying persuasive techniques and speech writing in her English lessons. Here is the text for her speech on the need for teenagers to be aware of the dangers lurking online…

When Anna was only twelve years old, she decided that school wasn’t important. She rarely went, and when she did, she skipped classes, and she never spoke to anyone, staying silent in the background. She acted like that for a while, until, finally, a friend of hers asked her what was going on.

Anna responded that she couldn´t tell her; it was against the rules.

Confused, and scared, her friend grabbed Anna´s sleeves and pulled them up. On her arms, she saw some cuts in the shape of a whale. That’s when she realized that Anna was playing a dangerous online ‘game’ called “Blue Whale”.

This game was about doing one dare a day for fifty days, each one becoming more and more dangerous, until the fiftieth day, when the dare is to commit suicide by jumping off a balcony. When Anna´s friend asked her why she had been playing, her only response was that she was almost finished. Thankfully, her friend managed to talk about why it was not safe to play that game.

But it wasn’t over yet.

When Anna told her ‘mentor’, the one who had been giving her the dares, that she wanted to quit, he threatened to hurt her family if she did.

Scared, Anna gave in.  

She walked out onto the balcony and got ready to jump...

The deadly "Blue Whale" game is just one example of how dangerous the internet can be. You meet a person you think you can trust, you form a bond. And that’s when everything can go wrong. Yet there are many more reasons why it is vital that we understand the importance of staying safe on the internet.

I use the internet just as much as anyone else, maybe even more. I use it for homework, research, to know what´s happening in the world or to socialize with friends or family.  It's incredibly useful. But everything has a dark side, and, while people know that there are dangers, they don´t necessarily know what these dangers are and how to avoid them.

So, how DO we stay safe when we´re online? 

Firstly, we need to ensure that we are aware of the problem of peer pressure. Peer pressure is the direct influence by people, or the effect on an individual who gets encouraged to follow their decisions, or by changing their attitudes, values, and behaviors.

People accept peer pressure because they want to fit in or to be part of the cool kids, or because they are worried that the other kids are going to talk about him or her behind their backs if they don’t do what the other kids are telling them to do. Other kids follow them because they’re curious to try something new that other people are doing. The idea is that everyone´s doing it.

But what if you don’t want to be part of being pressured anymore? Well, it´s going to be hard to be the only kid that is going to say NO. Yet think about it: how will you feel about taking this action in the next day, next week, next month or even a year. If you don't want to say NO directly, you can simply come up with an excuse – for example: if your friends are making you watch an inappropriate video, say that your Wi-Fi isn’t working, or tell them that you will watch it later but right now you have a lot of things to do.

Of course, peer pressure is not the only form of online social intimidation – cyberbullying is a scary problem that happens through the internet as well. Perpetrators message victims that can easily be offended. What perpetrators do is they upload photos, video and messages through social media, making millions of people from all over the world be able to see into one person’s private life.

This is how cyberbullying works: someone posts mean comments about you that can affect you terribly, like: “kill yourself”, “you’re not worth it”, “nobody likes you” or they will message you privately and to say similarly cruel things. People that are sitting safely hidden behind a bright screen are busy telling you how much you’re not worth it, telling you mean comments and making you believe what they’re saying – or worse, even trying to convince you to end your own life. One example of this tragedy is a girl called Hannah, who was fourteen years old, who killed herself after being cyberbullied thanks to an online game. Since 1999, children under the age of thirteen commit suicide one in every 5 days, many of these deaths caused as a result of harassment from bullies at school, home and online.

You might think that the cost of cyberbullying is just getting grounded and not having a computer, but NO: the cost of cyberbullying is not only your parents grounding you. You can go to jail for at least two years for cyberbullying someone else. And, not only that, but you are ruining your future as well.

You might be thinking, how is my internet behavior now going to ruin my future?

Well, imagine that you just finished college and you are about to get your dream job. You go for the interview and you talk about yourself and how hard you’ve studied. It goes really well. But, afterwards, the manager decides to search about you on the internet and social media. He is able to see that you have cyberbullied someone and your reputation might affect his company; thanks to your actions as a teenager, you will not be able to have the job that you’ve worked towards for more than ten years.

This is called your digital footprint. Your digital footprints is the trail you leave behind on the internet: comments on social media, messages, apps you´ve used, email records, every single photo you’ve ever uploaded. Once something is on the internet, it’s there forever. This is your online history.

For example, when you go onto Instagram, all the comments that you´ve written are recorded, even if it’s a private account. When you upload on Instagram, they give you terms and conditions that inform you about this – but who actually reads these? In reality, probably nobody really reads it because it’s a fifty-page document and nobody really has time for that. But when you click “accept”, you're letting them be a part of your life.

You might be wondering, how can I get rid of my digital footprint? But the truth is, you cannot get rid of it.

This is why we have to be more careful about what we search, say and do on the internet, because no matter if it's been more than twenty years, our digital footprint will always be there. James Gunn, the director of the famous movie “The Guardians of the Galaxy”, and Roseanne Barr, the star and namesake of the TV series “Roseanne”, are two examples of people who have been fired from their jobs thanks to an offensive post on social media. In the case of James Gunn, the post he uploaded was years ago but still, he paid the cost of losing his job now.

Kids of our age and younger search, “like”, and comment on internet content without really thinking whether that action might ruin our future. I am sure that kids that have played the famous game called “Blue Whale” were not aware that, just by searching for “games” on the internet and clicking “start”, they could actually ruin their lives.

We need to be safe on the internet – to protect ourselves today, and in our future.

I´m sure that when Anna was scrolling through social media, looking for something to do, and came across the infamous “Blue Whale” website, she had no idea that by clicking “start”, fifty days later she would end up at the edge of her balcony about to jump off.  Luckily for Anna, as she was about to step off the edge, her unsuspecting mother walked into her room, saving her from making the worst mistake someone can ever do.

Taking her own life.


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