BEING CRITICALLY AWARE OF ONLINE INFORMATION
Some things we see online influence us in a positive way. For example, reading an article about someone starting a business might make us feel inspired.
Other things can influence us in a negative way. For example, something we read might make us believe something is real when it isn’t. A video we watch might encourage us to behave dangerously or do things that could get us into trouble. Photos we see might make us think everyone else has the perfect body or life.
That’s why it is important to be ‘critically aware’ of information online. Being critically aware involves being able to assess whether what we’ve read or seen is true and think about what impact it might have on us.
This can help us to decide whether or not we want to be influenced by the information.
‘Fake news’ (news or stories that are not true) spreads quickly and easily online. It can be hard to tell what’s fake and what’s real online. Fact-checking sites can help you to tell the difference between fact and fiction.
INCREASING YOUR CRITICAL AWARENESS OF ONLINE INFORMATION
- Assess it. Judge if you think things you see online have been edited to make people look better.
- Check it. Look at another website or source of information that you know and trust to see if it backs up what you’ve read or seen.
- Read it. Headlines or titles can be misleading. Read the whole article or blog carefully. Think about what they’re saying and whether it seems true or not.
- Speak to an adult you trust. They will be able to help you think about what you’ve seen, whether it’s true or not and what impact it could have on you.
BEING CRITICALLY AWARE OF PEOPLE ONLINE
It is also important to be critically aware of people you meet online. Just like information we read or see online, they can influence how you behave or what you believe.
Before you are influenced by someone you have met online, you need to be sure they are who they say they are.
It is easy for people online to hide who they really are and pretend to be someone else.
PREPARING TO JOIN SOCIAL MEDIA
If you’re wondering whether to join social media for the first time and start connecting with people, there are some things you might want to consider.
There are many benefits to using social media:
- Making new friends
- Sharing life updates with family and friends
- Finding content that makes you laugh
- Learning more about the world we live in
It’s important to understand that there can also be negative aspects to social media.
You shouldn’t feel any pressure to join social media. If you don’t feel ready, there are plenty of other ways you can stay in touch with your friends and family, and meet new people.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU CREATE AN ACCOUNT:
- Get ready for a lot of content. Social media lets people post all kinds of content, which can be accessed by anyone. This means that you could come across content you don’t want to see. This can be quite upsetting or make you feel uncomfortable.
- Know the negatives. Just as social networking can be used to connect with your friends, you may come across some people that aren’t very nice. They can make horrible comments or share nasty things. Some people even set up fake profiles to pretend to be someone they aren’t. It’s important to look out for these so you can stay safer online.
- Is this the right app for you? Most apps require you to be 13 or older to use. Some apps like WhatsApp require you to be even older, so make sure you check this before signing up.
- Digital footprint. Anything you post online leaves a trail of information. This is your digital footprint and it can be difficult to delete. Anything you post could even be shared, copied or edited without your knowledge.
- Managing your privacy. The more information you post online, the more people will find out about you. Make sure that you don’t give out any personal information that could identify you or your location, or that you don’t want others to see.
TOP TIPS FOR USING SOCIAL MEDIA
If you have decided to create an account, remember to:
- Get help when you need it. If someone on social media makes you feel worried or uncomfortable speak to a trusted adult, parent or teacher.
- Be respectful and responsible. Don’t share any offensive content and remember to respect each other’s differences.
- Think about what you post. Remember that once you post content, it is out there and you may not be able to delete it.
- Change your privacy settings. Think about who you want to access your content and protect the information you share.
- Know how to block and report. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you can block or report them so they can’t do it again.
- Be yourself. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else when you are online. It’s a great place to meet other people that enjoy the same things that you do. So most importantly, be you!
CREATING POSITIVE GROUP SPACES
Group chats are places where you can talk to more than one person at the same time. You can do this on dedicated apps, messaging apps, social media platforms or online games.
Some people create group chats for close friends. But other groups have hundreds or even thousands of people in. These can be people from the same school or area, or people from across the world.
Group chats provide an easy way to:
- have a laugh with friends
- organize events
- discuss school work
- chat about games or hobbies
However, sometimes the things that are shared in group chats hurt other people. This could involve bullying, sexual harassment or sharing inappropriate images.
GROUP CHATS CAN BE POSITIVE SPACES IF:
- You support and respect each other. Real friends are kind and support each other through difficult times. They don’t make jokes which might embarrass another person.
- You call out rude comments. If you feel comfortable to, challenge anyone making rude comments or jokes about people you know. They will be less likely to say horrible things again if they know others don’t agree with them.
- You ask before you share information about people you know. Don’t share personal information about friends in group chats with other people. This could hurt and humiliate them.
TIPS FOR SAFER GROUP SPACES
- Speak to an adult if nasty messages are being sent. It doesn’t matter if the messages are about you or someone else – you don’t need to deal with it alone. Teachers are responsible for supporting students who are being bullied or embarrassed online, even if it’s happening outside of school or college hours. You could also speak to a family member or trusted adult.
- Avoid group chats with lots of people you don’t know. Joining group chats with people you don’t know could put you in uncomfortable situations. People you don’t know could send inappropriate content, or they might pressure you to do things you don’t want to do. If you’re ever put under pressure online it’s never your fault and you can get help.
- Check your privacy settings. See if you can change the settings on your app to make sure that only contacts, friends or followers can add you into group chats or share content with you.
- Leave the group if you don’t feel comfortable. Don’t laugh along with something that’s upsetting or embarrassing, either to you or someone else. Even adding an emoji or commenting on what’s said could encourage more mean comments. Leaving the chat will show you don’t agree with that behaviour.
- Remember that it’s difficult to delete comments and photos once they have been shared. Once the messages have been read by recipients, it’s difficult to take them back. Make sure you think about what you share with large groups of people.
- Be respectful and responsible. We all want to have a good time online, so it’s important to treat each other with respect and kindness. Don’t share any offensive content and respect each other’s differences.
- Keep it private. Don’t give out any personal information that could identify you or your location. Consider what you share and remember to check your privacy settings.
CREATING CONTENT SAFELY
Pictures and videos play a big part in connecting with friends, family and people who love the same things as you do. Getting positive reactions from others can make you feel great. Creating content which grows your following is a bonus too.
However, it can be uncomfortable when you don’t get the reaction you anticipated. Once you’ve posted something online or shared it with a friend it can also be difficult to undo, especially when pictures and videos are kept and shared by others.
- Know your audience. Consider who can view your content and remember that it can be shared by anyone. How would you feel if it was made public or shared? It’s never okay for someone pressure you into sending or posting something.
- Protect your online reputation. Pictures or videos you post online can stay on the internet for a very long time. Before you share any content, make sure you would be happy with people seeing it in the future.
- Check for inappropriate, offensive or illegal content. It’s important that you don’t create or post content that is inappropriate, offensive or illegal.
- Get consent. If you’ve taken a picture or video of another person, get their permission before posting it online. Think about whether it could upset or embarrass them? Would you post it if it was a picture or video of you.