Although, in many ways, our activity on the network can create the illusion that we are away from threats while we are there, especially if we are in the safety of our homes. The online environment creates security challenges that are good to keep in mind when working with young people.
That should be done for the prevention of abuse of the data from young people we work with. But also, in our role as youth workers, we may also face situations where our data may be misused by some.
Reviewing the basic principles of online safety prevention is the first and most important prerequisite for participating in online activities. It is useful to remind participants of these principles, as well as to make it clear that misuse of data is considered an illegal activity.
The basic safety precautions in the online environment are:
- Protecting personal data with strong passwords.
- Keeping personal information private.
- Ensuring the security of our devices.
- Paying attention to software updates.
- Keeping an eye on Wifi.
- Setting up two-factor authentication.
- Backing up personal information.
- If the session is recorded, doing so should be done with the permission of all attendees.
It’s tempting to imagine the online environment as a place that can be created into the perfect form we need, with all the safety measures we seek. But we now know that filtering inappropriate content is tricky to handle even by teams of experts in the most well-known social networks, and there are still no perfect solutions.
So, if we are creating an online event with young people, we cannot do so without checking who they are and whether they are trustworthy. Also, even if the basic rules are broken, we should be able to request a correction.
As another way of looking at the online environment in the context of safety, we can draw on the definition of a ‘safe space‘ in general, which, according to the Merriam-webster dictionary, is ‘a place that is intended to be free from prejudice, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations’.
In this respect, the internet is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be observed that the younger generation is quite naturally becoming part of a global society through online platforms. The internet gives them the opportunity to share a passion for a whole spectrum of more individualised hobbies. Especially if they do not find similar enthusiasts in their immediate vicinity, it is indeed a phenomenon that can be observed with wonder.
But the other side of the coin is that the online environment can be a kind of overused escapism. The passion for the use of alternative identities may stem from deep insecurity and self-consciousness, and it may be that these apparent possibilities are what prevent more effective forms of assimilation into society.
These are certainly questions that are currently under-researched and therefore deserve our careful further attention.
Author: Katarina Klusová
Images: DALL-E from Open AI