Yesterday I had a very interesting telephonic discussion with RJ Rahul of Radio Mirchi (98.3FM) Pune. The topic was on the recent blog that declared Amitabh Bachchan had died in a car accident! The writer not only killed him, he revealed cremation plans too!
This is not the first instance of false news being posted online to create sensation. Recently, there was news of the critical condition of another yesteryear superstar, Rajesh Khanna, and before that of the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar!
Internationally, too there have been numerous cases where people deliberately posted false news on their status updates to garner eyeballs and generate sensation..A great furore was caused by the report that claimed Facebook would shut down so users should remove all their photos etc by March 15! Do read this interesting article on why you shouldn’t believe all that you see online.
These are but the tip of the iceberg…the real bulk of false, malicious or exaggerated news is much, much more and some are even accepted as truth or go undetected. So why do people enjoy publishing/sharing false stories or facts twisted out of proportion? And what exactly, you might be wondering, does this have to do with kids and cyber safety?
Lots, for most of the perpetrators of such crimes are young computer whizkids, some just out of their teens. And it is evident that they have never received any guidance on how to behave responsibly online. One may argue, for the sake of argument, that in real life too there are many unscrupulous people despite their being moral science lessons, parental guidance and regulations. True! There will always be negative characters around, but that does not mean we will not educate our kids on ethics or turn a blind eye if we suspect our kids of straying from the straight and narrow.
Let me share some common behavioural issues noted among preteens and teens online:
- Though our kids are steeped in our value systems, online they take on a completely different persona. They use profanities, curse words and even deliberately bully and humiliate peers!
- Some like sharing to such an extent that they share content without checking sources. As a result, there is spread of spam, inappropriate content and false news!
- The kids do not have foresight and think nothing about posting pics of their friends, tagging and publicly sharing them without asking for prior permission!
- Children are eager to share ‘breaking or sensational’ news. They don’t think of verifying the authenticity. This 2 minutes of fame gives them a false feeling of importance
- Some children deliberately post false updates just “for the fun of it”. They enjoy the succeeding havoc and despair. They don’t think it’s wrong to do so.
So what’s the solution? Simple:
- Teach kids they must behave responsibly online, like they do in real life
- What’s not right in real life is also not right online
- They can’t share content that creates sensation, maligns character or makes false allegations
- There are legal implications involved involving long drawn civil cases
- They must not blindly believe all that they read online. They must learn to separate the grain from the chaff by verifying with trusted sources
- Finally, they must respect people, their need for privacy and right to decide what they would like to share with others. This will ensure kids don’t try to ‘expose’ others online in jest
You may also like to refresh your knowledge of online ethics by going through my blog on the same. Also remember, family protection software, like McAfee Family Protection, will protect you from viruses, spams, scams and also allow you to monitor your kids’ online activities.
Let’s raise responsible kids After all; we owe it to the society.