A Teen's Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online
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@SexyMama123 wants to follow you. Should you accept her friend request? If you answered yes, you may not have realized that SexyMama isn’t sexy at all. She is actually a 40-year-old man living in his mother’s basement who uses social media to trick others. Those familiar with a hit MTV television show called “Catfish” know this situation well. A catfish is a person who uses the internet to pose as someone not. Usually the catfish will create a fake profile using another person’s pictures in order to contact others. As reliance on technology grows, most teenagers feel more confident communicating through technology than speaking face to face, which increases dangers, such as cyberbullying and "catfishing."
Though the internet acts as a resourceful tool, it can also be used to deceive others. Some teens with low self-esteem feel more comfortable posing as someone else to meet new people. A study conducted in 2012 revealed that there is a significant difference between young adults’ behavior on social media and their face-to-face interaction (Caldwell, 2013). Researchers recruited 1,365 undergraduates from two universities and asked them to participate in an email survey (Caldwell, 2013). Of participants, 99 percent identified themselves as honest, but results showed that females were three times more likely to say mean things over social media than in person (Caldwell, 2013). Researchers asked questions about flirtatious, dishonest, and rude behavior as they relate to the participants’ online presence (Caldwell, 2013). If 99 percent of participants labeled themselves as honest, then 99 percent of participants should have chosen the honest answer choice for every question — this was not the case (Caldwell, 2013). Young adults were more comfortable lying, flirting, and insulting others online. Technology gives young adults confidence to say things they wouldn’t in person.
To combat this growing phenomenon, young adults can use certain features that social media sites provide such as reporting or blocking someone they feel is a catfish or a cyberbully. In turn, social media cites must brainstorm ways to limit the creation of fake social media accounts. One example could be requiring users to set up accounts based on phone number and verifying it with a code. Although social media sites take measures to prevent catfishing and cyberbullying, they must also be wary of infringing on users’ rights. More importantly, the public should be educated on how to prevent cyberbullying and catfishing. From a parent’s perspective, children’s social media accounts should be randomly monitored. Parents should also advise their children to try to speak to people they know in real life and not to share their personal information with those with whom they aren’t close. With regulation and awareness, parents and teens can prevent interacting with these kinds of people.
Raven Selden is a participant of Uplift Plus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a program that seeks out high-achieving high school students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Her editorial — written for her freshman English class this summer — is among the first in a series of posts by other Uplift Plus students to be published by Carolina Parent. The editorials, assigned by UNC English teacher Moira Marquis, asked students to research a contemporary social issue for young adults and share their findings.