#OurInternetOurChoice - Together For a Better Internet

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The internet: we love it! We want to celebrate all the positive, exciting things we can do online. However, like a lot of things in life, the internet can have it’s downsides. Here at Revealed Projects, we’re passionate about helping people to use it safely and with healthy boundaries.

There are so many benefits to the internet. Here’s a few:

·         Information (because what would we do with ourselves if we couldn’t ask Google?)

·         Self-expression

·         Engaging with others (this can be especially useful for people who suffer with social anxiety and find meeting people face-to-face difficult)

·         Communication, especially with friends and family around the world

·         Entertainment (or ‘spending hours watching raccoon videos on YouTube’)

·         Keeping up to date with what’s trending online

·         Spreading awareness of causes that matter to you (like the Ice Bucket challenge for ALS)

·         Buying and selling stuff online, and promoting small businesses

However, there can be some downsides to using the internet. It’s a good idea to be prepared for these things, just in case we run into problems later on down the line. We recommend asking yourself a few questions when you’re online, kind of like a safety checklist. To make it easy to remember, just think of the three W’s:

WHO:

Who are you talking to online?

It’s so easy to forget that not everybody online has good intentions. It’s easy for someone to pretend to be someone else when they’re on the internet – so always ask yourself some questions. Who is this person, and how can I tell they are who they say they are? Why are they talking to me – what are their intentions towards me?

We would always advise young people against adding and speaking to people online that they haven’t actually met. If you’re unsure, you can always speak to a parent or carer about it - it’s important to confide in an adult you trust if you feel worried.

WHAT:

What are you looking at online, and what are you putting out there?

Everything you say online – even in private messages – can become public, and is permanent. Think before you share: are you giving away where you live, or where you’ll be next Saturday? We would always advise against sharing that kind of information online.

Also, ask yourself: would you be happy for that photo/tweet/online rant to be found and shared in ten years time? We’ve seen in a few high-profile cases recently that sometimes what we put online can come back to haunt us later on. If you wouldn’t mind that post being shared in ten years, then go ahead and share it – but if your answer to the earlier question is ‘no, I wouldn’t want people to see this later’ or ‘I’m not sure’, then it’s probably best not to share.

Always check that what you’re sharing online is yours to share, or that you have permission to share it. For example, if it’s a photo of you and a friend, ask them if they’re okay with you posting it first. It’s also a good idea to think about other people’s feelings before you post – how might other people perceive what you are saying?

There are a lot of websites out there, and not all of them are good for us. It’s good to ask ourselves questions about what we view online: for example, would I be happy if my parents or carers knew I was looking at this? Is it good for me? Why do I want to visit this site? Remember, if anything worries you online, you can turn to a trusted adult, and we’ll be putting some links at the end of this post for some websites you can check for advice or support.

WOULD:

Everyone has a moral code – a kind of instinct that tells us if we’re doing something right or something wrong. We try to abide by that code offline – and we need to do it online, too. Would you say what you’re about to write to someone’s face? Would you be happy with that photo posted on noticeboards at school? Would you join in with this argument in the playground or on the street? If you wouldn’t do these things in the physical world, then maybe have a think about why not – and if you think it’s right to do them online.

As well as these, there’s also a fourth ‘W’ to consider …

WELLBEING

We’ve spoken on the blog about wellbeing before, and it’s good to consider how the internet might impact this (both positively and negatively). We go to the dentist regularly to check the health of our teeth – in the same way, it’s good to do regular checks on our use of the internet and how it impacts our wellbeing. There are a few things to look out for:

1.       Is my internet usage impacting my sleep?

It’s always good to make sure our internet use doesn’t impact our sleeping habits. I know - I’m sure lots of people have gone to bed for an early night and ended up awake, hours later, having disappeared down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. But while it might seem harmless, it’s actually really important not to let that become a habit. Here’s some questions to consider if the internet is affecting your sleep:

·         Could you decide to stop using the internet an hour before bed to allow yourself time to wind down?

·         Could you charge your phone in another room at night, so you’re not tempted to look at it? Or, if you’re like me and you rely on your phone for an alarm in the morning, could you maybe put it face down and out of reaching distance?

·         Could you put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ at night to stop notifications from waking you up?

2.       Is my internet usage stopping me from doing other things?

The internet can be very addictive, and it’s hard to break away sometimes. Is your internet use keeping you from seeing your friends and family face-to-face? Are you getting enough exercise? Are you getting all your jobs (like chores and homework) done? If you’re struggling with this, setting some limits might really help. Maybe you could have a limit of how much time you spend online a day, which can be different for weekdays, weekends, and holidays.

3.       Is my time online making me feel bad about myself?

It can feel really good when we get a lot of likes and comments when we post online. However, this feeling can become addictive, and we can start to feel like our self-worth is tied up in how many likes we get. The flip side of this is if we don’t get many likes, or we get a mean comment, we can be left feeling really bad about ourselves. It’s always a good idea to remind ourselves of all the good things about ourselves – and what it is that makes us unique. If you’re feeling bad about yourself, maybe take some time offline. Do something that makes you happy, or spend some time with people that you love. Remember, your worth is not determined by how many likes you have: you are so much more than that!

Most of us post our ‘best bits’ online – the most flattering photos, the most exciting events. It’s really easy, though, to forget that pretty much everyone does this. So what we end up doing is comparing our ‘normal’ to everyone else’s ‘best’. It’s so important to remember that everyone has ups and downs – it’s just that people are more likely to share the ups. What we see online is really a snapshot of people’s lives. So, the next time you are tempted to compare yourself to what you see on social media, remember that it’s not always the full story.

Finally, there are so many apps that we can use to change the bits we don’t like about ourselves – to the point where the end result can be very different to the original picture. While it can be fun to do this, it’s important to ask yourself every now and then: ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘Does this make me feel better or worse about myself?’ ‘Why do I want to edit/change that part of me?’ If you feel a particular app isn’t good for you, you can always delete it, or just spend some time away from it.

 

Of course, one of the many things we love about the internet is all the information and resources available. If you feel you need more information or support about safer internet use, here’s a few links:

UK Safer Internet Centre: https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/

Childnet: https://www.childnet.com/

CEOP: https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/

Safer Internet Day this year is on Tuesday 5th February, and you can find out more information about it here. Follow us on social media to see the different ways we are supporting Safer Internet Day 2019.

Megan BidmeadComment