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2019 – Safer Internet

Staying Safe (and Healthy) Online

February 4th to February 10th is Children’s Mental Health week, and it coincides with ‘Safer Internet Day’ which is on the 6th February. Coincidence? Perhaps. But in a world which is reporting increasing amounts of mental health issues, and stress, related to social media and reports that you are more likely to be a victim of Cybercrime than any other crime, then perhaps not.


The Impact

The impact of social media, especially on younger people is both positive and negative, with many reporting issues related to lack of self-esteem (“Facebook envy” is now a ‘thing’!), the Fear Of Missing Out (‘FOMO’), and it is even having an impact on our memory, as images and ‘memories’ are shared with us that perhaps distort the truth (how about those ‘happy images’ of the holiday you posted, which in fact wasn’t such a happy holiday?).

The impact of social media is clearly evident, but also the impact on our health from the sheer volume of data we are now expected to consume.  There are over 60 different social media platforms out there! Yes, there are the obvious ones’ but there are others which are less popular, or known about.  Indeed if you count every service and app that allows human interaction, then there are THOUSANDS of sites (would you consider the game ‘Fortnite’ or the adult app ‘Tinder’ as social media? Because they are).

Email became mainstream in 1993, but today we send around 260BILLION emails every day. Dependent on your approach to your inbox you’ll always have an amount of unread messages and hundreds of items in your inbox.  We are bombarded with messages about what we should look like, and what we should buy. We are overloaded with work and we never really ‘log off’ any more (The average Brit checks their phones 10,000 times a year – that’s 28 times per day. Do you do it more? What’s your ‘screen time’ looking like?). We’ve almost become like ‘lab rats’ checking for ‘likes’ or ‘views’ on our posts!


The Bad News.

But here is some really bad news; The ‘Bad Actors’ know this. The Cybercriminals out there know that you are being bombarded with emails, and messages and requests to ‘like’ or ‘share’ things. They know you want to be seen as a good person, so they create fake sites and ask you to donate money, or ‘share this post’. They’re using ‘information overload’ to their advantage, with phishing emails increasing over 65% in 2017-2018, and there is a reason… because they work!

The ‘Bad Actors’ know that you’re not paying attention to their emails, because you’re too busy. They know you’re not paying attention to the SMS request to rest your password because you’re too tired or too distracted. They know this. They are exploiting our weaknesses.


The Good News.

The Good news is that once we become aware of what game they are playing, and start paying attention – WE take back control of the game!

Safer Internet Day is intended to help kids stay safe online, but the message to them is the same message to us; If you see something online that distresses you, or upsets you, or hurts you in some way – talk to someone about it. “Don’t feed the trolls’ is a mantra often played out to children and we could do with listening to the same advice.  Don’t spend all day on your devices. Spend time with your loved ones and reconnect in the real world.

In relation to our emails and our inboxes, we need to take back control of this, and there are countless books and articles out there that can help.  But remembering that the ‘Bad Actors’ are preying on our inability to pay attention, then we need to START to pay attention and take back control.


Final words of advice

On Safer Internet Day I spoke to 2 classes of around 15, 6yr old children.  When I asked them “How would you make a safer internet?” One plucky young girl said “We’d make it a law that everyone is nice to each other.”  So perhaps that’s what we need, a “Be Nice Law”? If only it were that simple, but perhaps it is. It starts with each of us to pay attention to our words and actions, because both have impact. In the real and virtual world.



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