Once upon a time, Internet users had a reasonable amount of control over the distribution of items bearing their name.
You know when you delete your Instagram account, or when you remove a picture from the Internet? It’s gone. Nobody can ever get it back can they? Wrong.
Unfortunately, the things that you put online stay there forever – they have not been deleted, they have been moved to another storage place that we can’t see. People easily bypass E-Safety advice in a moment of over-confidence. Perhaps they don’t want to chicken out of posting something “funny” in front of their friends, or miss out on the involvement of having an online presence. Later, they may regret posting that picture, or typing that message. However they may not think twice about it, until it is brought back up again later in life.
Snapchat is a common forum for sharing photos and conversations with friends. However, there have been cases of bullying in which the bullies use Snapchat like a wall. They send horrific messages thinking that they will just vanish into the black abyss of the Internet, once it has been opened by the recipient. This has recently been shown in the news in Minnesota, where children sent racially offensive material to an African-American girl, assuming that, once she’d seen it, it would disappear. Unfortunately for them, it was traced by the girl’s father and they are being held accountable for what they have done. Despite this misuse of Snapchat, the majority use it as a fun way to communicate with friends and family, and this is the ongoing dilemma. We have fantastic tools and opportunities, but we all have to use them responsibly.
In terms of how misuse of the Internet could affect you later in life, a potential employer will certainly scour it for any incriminating material under your name. They can check your Facebook pages, pore over your online conversations. If they find anything that aggravates them or shows you in a bad light, it’s unlikely that you will get employed, and you may have been working towards that job for most of your life.
Another issue facing Internet users is the potential for identity theft, as your personal details never disappear. Renee Weiseman, author and frequent speaker at conferences concerning online matters, advises that, when signing up for an account or website, we should use a false birth date. I agree, because you don’t know where your personal information could go. Your real name or birth date may be used in an identity fraud in another country, for all you know. Your mother’s maiden name may pop up on the other side of the world at the click of a mouse.
So, as your finger poises over the “send” button, just remember that when you tap that button, there’s no going back. We can all learn to use the Internet safely and responsibly and have fun in doing so, as long as we remember: the Internet has no delete key.