Staying safe online is an important issue for young people using the internet, with cyberbullying becoming an increasingly serious problem all over the world. It must be noted, that technology is threatening child development by disrupting the crucial learning relationship between adults and children and has exposed many children to different vices of society. The advent of smartphones and social media nevertheless mean that today’s environment is now far more complex for young people to negotiate. The digital world is reducing contact time between the generations – a development with potentially damaging consequences
Today’s society puts more responsibility on children to determine their future on their own without giving them the necessary support to make crucial decisions about their lives. Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites with over 2.38 billion users online (Facebooks Users Statistics Report 2019) - lots of them are people our age. With people posting and 'liking' everyday, it is a great way to share what you're doing with your friends. But are they all friends?
I take this opportunity to tell young Djiboutians and young people across the globe that people hold fake accounts, pretending to be someone they're not. This may seem scary but there are some things you can do.
Safety on social media is very important, but do you really know how to stay safe using social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat?
I have a few tips I would like to share which have helped me since the moment I decided to be part of the social networks.
The first thing to do is to check your privacy settings - make sure you know what you're showing to the public. Some status updates and pictures could attract these 'fakers'. You can change this setting so only your friends can see, with just one click of your mouse.
Accounts can be hacked into if you have a weak password, so make sure your password is not general and easy to guess. This can cause 'fakers' to pretend and write posts in your name. To avoid this, have a strong password that includes numbers or symbols. You can check if people hacked your Facebook account by checking your statuses. Changing your password often also helps.
Don’t agree to meet people
Never agree to meet people that you've never met in real life. This could be dangerous and considering how small Djibouti is, you might be a victim! To avoid this, don't agree to meet up, no matter how good it may seem and always tell your parents!
Another matter is handling cyberbullies. Posting an embarrassing or humiliating video of someone, harassing someone by sending messages or even setting up profiles on social networking sites are all examples of cyberbullying. No one, especially children and teenagers should go through this. Normally the bully may seem big, but they are usually just as scared and shy as the victim. People seem so big over the internet. You don't really know who is out there or who is behind the profile or screen.
You are not alone
Talk to someone you trust. This could be a teacher, parent or friend. You may even have to deactivate your social media accounts if you're repeatedly bullied through them. No matter how horrible the message - do not reply. That is what the bully wants. Instead, block instant messages and emails. Ask a parent or teacher for help.
Whatever you think, you're not alone. There is always someone else who has gone through something like you. I have friends who have experienced this and I have been able to assist them in addressing cyberbullying. Now they know what to do should such an encounter happen again.
The internet is a powerful tool for us young that we can use to support our development by accessing information, education, empowerment, and participation. But if abused, the internet can expose children and us young people to violence, exploitation and abuse through inappropriate content and behavior online.
Towfik Ibrahim, 19, is currently a freshman in University, studying computer science. Towfik enjoys spending much of his time doing street photography and graphic designing. He is passionate about working with his peers in teaching primary school children on the importance of the internet.