Today's youth are different from any generation before them. They are exposed to digital technology in virtually all facets of their day-to-day existence...A communications revolution is shaping a generation and its world (Tapscott, 1998). Over the past 10 years the emergence of the Internet has revolutionised the world of media, information and communications and is rapidly becoming integrated into every aspect of modern life from healthcare to banking, travel to shopping. Increasingly young people are turning to the net as a tool for research and information on their personal issues, and particularly on sensitive issues such as sexual and mental health.
However for the many benefits of Internet usage there are also many risks. It is a well-known fact that the Internet contains material that is inappropriate for minors and may cause offence to others. Access to inappropriate content is easier. Information that may be sourced online may be inaccurate. Viruses that affect computers can be transmitted in emails. Internet users' credit card details may be obtained illegally and misused. It is also feared that the computer screen may replace the schoolyard for bullies. These bullies may take peoples identities and misrepresent them online in addition to using the Internet to shame and bully others. Young people are a driving force behind the Internet and have catapulted services like Hotmail, MSN, Bebo, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube into the public consciousness
What is Bebo?
Bebo is described as a "social networking website, designed to allow friends to communicate in various ways. It has developed into an online community where users can post pictures, send messages to one another, and write Weblogs or ‘Blogs'. 7 out of 10 young people in Ireland are registered on it.
Many parents are very concerned about their child's use of Social Networking Sites such as Bebo. As a parent you need to understand the Internet and social networking sites by logging on to them and seeing what they are about. Educate young people about online bullying and how they can prevent it. Make young people aware that they are not anonymous online. Encourage young people to talk openly about online activities. Make your child more aware of the risks associated with things they sign up for, example reading what they are agreeing to when they sign up for something instead of ticking the check box to agree to T&C's. Encourage your child to have a private profile page, this ensures that only the people they accept as friends will be able to view their page.
Bebo can also be viewed by young people as an adult free zone, a place where they can talk to their peers about life in general and what they are up to. Young people can genuinely forget that the content they are posting can be viewed by others. For other young people using Bebo is a way to express themselves and to have fun with their friends.
Cyberbullying is serious and studies show that females are more likely to use this type of bullying than others. Cyberbullying is serious and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Remind young people about accepting people they don't know on to their profile, if they have a private profile only their friends can view their page. If they are receiving negative comments, upsetting emails etc., there is a temptation to respond immediately. Encourage young people not to reply to the comments/mails these should be kept for evidence. Passwords should be kept secret, so nobody else can access their profile. There is also a pre-screening option for comments posted on to their page so if they don't like what is being written they can delete it. Parents need to speak to their child and reassure them that their Internet use will not be curtailed if they inform them that they are being bullied online. Parents also need to act responsibly if they suspect that their child is using the Internet to bully someone else. Young people should be aware that they lose control of their photographs once they post them online. A photograph can be stored indefinitely on to anybody's hard drive. These photos can be used to embarrass a person at a later stage.
There are useful websites that parents can check out to inform them on the Internet and Social networking websites such as: www.webwise.ie , www.watchyourspace.ie , www.ncte.ie
KDYS Tralee Youth Information Office has free copies of guides for parents on new media technologies, and guides for parents on social networking websites.
For further Information please contact:
Youth Information Co-ordinator
KDYS, Denny Street, Tralee