Digital safety

People sitting with laptops

Nowadays, young people spend most of their time on social media platforms, tweeting and posting on Facebook. Being connected online has become an essential part of our lives – as if we are connected to oxygen masks, something we cannot live without.

But with that lifestyle come new fears and doubts. For example, when I shared my first blog post on UNICEF’s Voices of Youth I was hesitant sharing my words with people I’ve never met, people who aren’t even my virtual friends and who live in various countries all around the world. I discussed the matter with my friend Ali, asking, “Will they really understand what I am talking about? Will they understand my words?”

Interestingly enough, I had never thought about that aspect of online engagement before. I created my Facebook account when I was quite young. I didn’t consider the risks involved in sharing my life with the world. Neither did I think about where my personal data will be stored, and who will have access to it. It is a world with infinite uncertainty. Now I know, we should be more careful!

As a social media user I started thinking about how I can safely use these platforms, since one wrong decision could potentially put me in danger. I started to dig deeper and read about hacking – what if someone illegally accessed my account and started reading my private messages? I decided that my privacy is priority, so I updated the operation systems of my phone and computer and added additional security layers to protect my accounts and myself.

Suddenly I wondered if I should stop using any digital platform that I’m not familiar with, that would require me to provide my name or any personal information. So when I discovered Voices of Youth, I considered signing up as an anonymous user.

I had an inner debate: On the one hand, I wanted to submit my blog post on Voices of Youth, but using a pen name instead of my real name, in order to protect my identity. On the other hand, I felt this would make me lose the ownership of my own ideas – wouldn’t I simply become a character in my stories? This internal conflict lasted for a while. I understand my mother’s words: “In a time full of war and risks, let’s avoid any additional problems.” Yet I want to be myself, a responsible digital citizen who doesn’t fall victim to using the internet recklessly.

At the end, I decided to inform myself and learn more about Voices of Youth. I learned that it is a safe platform, encouraging me to share my voice responsibly, meaning never to put my safety and the safety of others at risk.

I followed their advice. My first blog post was about poverty that paints my country and people gray. I was so happy to see it published.

This article was written by Yousef Al Herek, 17, Hama, Syrian Arab Republic, as part of the 2017 State of the World's Children report.

Syrian Arab Republic