Today is Safer Internet Day, a day where the issues we face online on a daily basis are highlighted and – hopefully – addressed.

The trouble with some of these issues is that many of us were never really taught about how to deal with a bully making your life hell.

This is something that needs to be addressed according to founder at MySocialLife, Dean McCoubrey.

“With more than 22 million South Africans on Facebook, 8 million on Instagram and 5 million now on teen hype-app, TikTok, there is a vast number of adults and children exploring social media apps, and yet very few young learners have been given any formal education and training,” says McCoubrey.

Aside from learners, parents and teachers may not know how to deal with things like cyberbullying.

But even seemingly innocuous things like social media can be plagued with risk.

“We need the critical thinking skills to be able to see through the various risks that come with social media – trolling, flaming, sexting, chat forums, privacy, as a few examples – or our kids can find themselves in vulnerable and fearful situations,” says McCoubrey.

It’s not just the horrors online that kids may be exposed to but also the constant popularity contest that is the internet.

That’s where MySocialLife fits into the equation. The organisation teaches digital life skills at schools but also assists teachers and parents with helping their children when MySocialLife leaves the school.

The organisation can even do training for your company.

MySocialLife isn’t only focused on cyberbullying but also cybersecurity and general online safety.

So on Safer Internet Day, MySocialLife offers up four tips that anybody can use to be a bit safer online.

Firstly, protecting your privacy and security should be always be a priority. “There are approximately 4 billion people online globally, so private accounts ensure you minimise contact with unwanted strangers who connect via public social media accounts,” explains MySocialLife.

Building off of the previous point, when you’re using a new device spend a bit of time checking the privacy settings. Block off holes you’d rather not be there and take note of any changes to those settings in future.

Perhaps the most difficult suggestion from MySocialLife is to stop chasing the promise of fame on social media. The fact of the matter is that the moment you put your name out there you open yourself up to the miscreants of the internet.

“By chasing followers and sharing posts publicly, more and more people will have their own opinions on what you have to say and show – and may disagree or criticise. To limit criticism, we need to limit who we share our posts with, or prepare ourselves for unexpected feedback and unwanted messages,” says the organisation.

Finally, beware of scams online that use misinformation to catch your eye. While you may learn something shocking in the process, you may also pick up malware or be asked to input payment information.

But the best piece of advice offered up by McCoubrey and his organisation is simply to talk to your children and help them understand that what happens online, affects you in the real world.

“Values and guidelines need to be translated into an online context, we need to explain carefully what our expectations are when we are online,” explains the founder.

“Safer Internet Day is the perfect opportunity to remind tweens and teens that even though the internet makes it possible to be anonymous, test other aspects of their personality, and be more risky, most of them wouldn’t swear like that at home, or bully someone face-to-face, or speak to a stranger in a shopping mall,” says McCoubrey.

While we’re on the subject, Google has highlighted Safer Internet Day today by encouraging users to complete a safety checkup. We highly recommend take two minutes to do this, maybe make a family affair out of it this evening.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]