SHS banner
<<< back to home page


Cyber safety...

We live in an amazing time. Communications have come such a long way, even in the past ten years and we are now able to communicate with other people instantly.

You have probably heard the line in the Spiderman trilogy, that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. That’s a good summary of the communication options we have today. With computers and mobile phones, we are now able to have virtually instant conversations with people. We can also join group conversations in chat rooms.

One of the biggest and most alarming problems with these communications is that there is more scope for ‘mis-communication’, and here begins an entirely new ball game.

EXAMPLE: ‘I was on Messenger last night and Julie was talking to Kathy about whether I really like John or if I am just stringing him along. I came online and said that I really did like him but I was just annoyed at how he was ignoring me at school. Jack was also online and he was saying that John was going to drop me at school tomorrow.’

The conversation continues but you get the general idea. A ton of communications occur everyday in what is known as ‘cyberspace’. All these instant expressions of feelings and emotions are played out, often in a public arena.

Emails are also very common. In fact, we find ourselves often communicating in written form rather than picking up the telephone, or even better, face to face. Sure it cuts out a lot of time, and you can think carefully about what you need to say, but one of the biggest issues is that of emotion. With email, SMS and online discussion sites, you cannot portray the emotions you want to express within an appropriate context.

Example: ‘Jacqui should get her act together!’

This could be said as a serious statement, or the person may be using sarcasm (a form of joking with people). Jacqui has no way of understanding the tone of that statement because it is not being delivered verbally, with the relevant feelings attached. This is often where miscommunication can occur.

Another issue with this new wave of communication is that many conversations and statements can now be made without the worry of being ‘face to face’. With this in mind, we can often say a whole lot that we would not ever feel comfortable saying to someone face to face.

We can now take our time to carefully construct what we want to say, or alternatively, we can instantly respond to a text without fully thinking through the consequences. The important thing to remember here is that written and typed words are permanent. You cannot rapidly say, ‘I didn’t mean it!’ These forms of instant messaging also do not carry emotion with them (with the exception of little symbols of happy and sad faces that can be attached to your text!).

Protect yourself...

There are many cases in which written and typed text messages have been retrieved to deal with crimes or cases of severe bullying. If you are using computer and mobile communication methods regularly, there are a few useful things that you need to remember in order to protect yourself:

  • Take some time to think through what you want to say before you send a message or letter. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in the other person’s position to better understand how that person may respond.

  • If you are feeling hurt or angry about something, simply writing or typing the letter to the other person is enough. You may not need to even send it at all!

  • NEVER, EVER, reveal personal details about yourself.

  • Do not give away your phone number or address because you have no way of really ever knowing whether someone else online is role-playing (pretending to be someone they’re not).

  • Do not participate in any conversations that you would not normally participate in ‘in real life’. If you do not gossip about other people in person, do not do it online. It is exactly the same thing!

  • If you do use programs such as Messenger, choose only a small group of contact people, and keep it to that!

  • Be open about what you are doing! Do not lock yourself away from your family and parents. If you cannot show your parents what you are saying, you may need to rethink what you’re saying!

  • Before sending an email or SMS, ask yourself the following simple question, ‘Would I be happy saying this in person?’.


My Space & Facebook

Over the past few years, My Space and Facebook pages have become more and more common. Many students these days have at least a My Space page or are a member of Facebook. I have recently joined Facebook as a means of catching up with past students I have taught and people that I have previously gone to High School with. Whilst it is true that social networking sites such as these can be a really valuable way to keep in touch with family and friends, there are a few guidelines that students should follow when using these sites.

  • Be very mindful of the information that you give about yourself. There is such a thing called “Identity Fraud”, where given the right amount of information, someone could use your details to pretend that they are ‘you’.

  • Don’t write anything on your Myspace or Facebook page that you wouldn’t be happy for anyone to read. Remember, this is a public domain, which means, technically, anyone can read your information.

  • Only use tasteful pages on your MySpace or Facebook page. Do you know that many potential employers actually look online at social networking sites (if they are not blocked) and can find out a great deal about who you are and whether they would be happy to employ you. It won’t be long before you are out seeking a part-time job.

<<< back to home page