Safer Internet Day in the United States

Written by Michael Creekmore

The Internet has to be one of mankind’s greatest inventions, hands down. I used to sit back and wonder what life was like before the mainstream use of the Internet. Then I remember, it was all about playing outside with friends and getting home before the streetlight came on. Fast forward decades later, the Internet is in heavy rotation, everyone and their momma has access to it. Many of us can jump online from the comfort of our own cell phone by simply placing our finger on the large “G” (Google) or the compass-looking icon (Safari). Once on the internet, we can spend hours just surfing the net, checking emails, looking at news, toggling between different social media platforms and scrolling our feeds. I don’t know about you but for me, it can be an easy way to pass the time between clients, between meetings and even when I’m waiting to pick my kids up from practice. I think it’s safe to say a large number of us have incorporated using the internet in our everyday routine. Well guess what… Kids have too! Kids of all ages. Students as young as Kindergarten have access to internet-capable devices. Even though the Internet is a joyous place and can meet many of our entertainment, educational and emotional needs, there are some dark spaces and places that can cause serious damage to young people. Not to sound like an after school special but our failure to educate kids on the dangers of the internet can lead to greater problems in the future.

On average, most young people aren’t intentionally trying to get into mischief or search dangerous information on the internet but there is this thing called “Social Media” and that’s where all of the action happens. Social Media was created to connect us and allow us to share our life highlights— well, that’s what I always thought. Unfortunately, that’s not the only purpose of social media. Some use it to bully, harass, antagonize, embarrass, solicit, and scam others. Let’s not forget about the traumatization some experience due to viewing graphic videos or pictures. All of sudden the internet is a dangerous place and social media seems more like a dangerous dimly lit back alley instead of a place for friends to connect, our life’s highlights to be shared and good news to be spread. The number of social media users seemingly grows exponentially, year over year. Statistics are staggering but instead of diving into the numbers, may I have a moment to share some of the negative effects of social media? It will only take a minute… Thanks. Many young people reportedly experience the following: decreased sleep, increased anxiety (FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out), increased depressive symptoms, body image issues, cyberbullying, vicarious trauma, mood changes and decreased self-esteem just to name a few.

Since the internet, especially social media, can be such a treacherous place, Safer Internet Day continues to grow more important. I’ve gotta be honest, prior to becoming a Professional School Counselor, I knew nothing about Safer Internet Day. I simply policed my children’s internet and cell phone use. C’mon, don’t act like that’s not the parental norm. Fortunately, Safer Internet Day helps facilitate the dialogue necessary to sound like you know what you’re talking about when you speak with your children about safe/responsible internet use. As a frame of reference, about 19 years ago, Safer Internet Day was created to raise awareness of everyone’s online safety and wellbeing, with an extra emphasis on children and young people. Safer Internet Day USA’s primary goal is to create a better internet experience that empowers everyone to use technology responsibility, respectfully, critically, and creatively. Please take some time today to check out their programs and learn more about Safer Internet Day.

WAYS TO BE SAFE: 

Since you’re here and we greatly appreciate you stopping by, here are 3 quick tips I think can help ensure a safer internet experience:

Curate Good Vibes Only: Start by unfollowing profiles/ accounts that leave you feeling drained, sad, scared, anxious, upset or any other uncomfortable feeling… Yes, UNFOLLOW, even if that means you have to cut virtual ties with certain associates, friends, family, influencers or celebrities. Continue or start to follow profiles/ accounts that improve your mood, encourage positivity and uplift your spirits. 

Set Screen-Time Limits: So there’s an app for this, it’s called BARK. Based on reviews it’s an amazing resource for iPhone and Android users. Although there is a free version, you know the paid version provides all the bells and whistles. 

If downloading another app is not something that interests you, you can set screen time the old school way… manually. Go into your settings, find “screen time” and manually set specific durations in which you are able to access or use social media or other types of apps.

Turn Off Notifications: It’s hard to be affected by information or situations that we’re unaware of; by turning off notifications, we can live life in the moment without the distraction of notification alerts. Let’s be real, those notifications can swoop right in and rob you of whatever moment you’re in. Whether it’s a vibration or sound, the moment you hear or feel it, you reach for your phone.

Remember, safer social media use is an integral component of safer internet use. The internet can be a dangerous place for everyone but especially the younger generation. Educating them on how they can maintain safe internet use without doing or getting into unsafe situations is important.

Join Rhithm as we commit to doing our part in making the internet a safe place.

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