Social networking sites are great for keeping in touch with family and friends, and letting the world know what you’re up to, whether in a professional or personal capacity. For young people, more than anyone else, digital media is all about sharing. Whether it’s their thoughts, photos, or their latest favorite videos, almost all of the devices and platforms that youths use are designed to make it easy for them to share things with their friends.
Given the increasing popularity of social networking sites and the general improvement in email filters, scammers are now using these sites more and more in an attempt to harvest private information and commit varying levels of identity fraud. Phishing, scams, frauds and hoaxes are a major source of cybercrime affecting many internet users. Most users have a basic awareness of computer viruses and a general notion of what constitutes identity theft, but a number of people don’t realise the real threat that phishing, frauds and scams pose.
Since such a large number of people rely on the internet and social media for facts, I want to ask people not to share or comment on messages or posts with unidentified sources or unconfirmed news. I’ve seen many posts that start with “Heard about this” and then end with “Please share”. When you’re asking people to share hearsay with no verifiable or identifiable source, there is huge potential for spreading misinformation that adds fuel to the fire.
I do believe most people have good intentions and want to help spread the “news” as quickly as possible, but when doing it naively, you could become a victim of someone who wants to use the power of people’s eagerness to spread lies. Always consider how the images and videos you publish might be interpreted, and what level of information they are displaying. Think before you post. Think before you share. What you share online, any text message, picture, email or status update, has the potential to be seen beyond where you intended it to. Everything that an individual does online stays online, and youth need to understand the importance of establishing a good online, and offline, reputation.