If the past year taught us anything, it’s the value of connecting with the people who are important to us. With border restrictions and social distancing, digital mediums have been more essential than ever – which brings with it a whole new world of opportunities – but also some things to be aware of!
Using Zoom, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms is a great way to meet people who have similar interests. Podcasts have discussion groups, there are groups for dog watching, bird watching and funny cat memes – which are all great sources of humour, connection and community that can help us to get through tough times.
But what about the risks of these online platforms? What can you do to stay safe while still making the most of these connections?
Here are our top tips:
- Keep your online friends list small. Only befriend people you know! If you don’t feel close enough to them to wish them a happy birthday when Facebook reminds you to, then reflect on your friends list!
- Keep your privacy settings private! Whether on Facebook or Instagram, you can choose how private you want your profile. Keep your personal information only visible to people you trust.
- Think before you post. In the age of social media, it’s commonplace to share multiple aspects of our lives, personalities and interests on our profiles. But, something to think about is your digital brand – and things that go up online can hang around! So think carefully about the type of pictures and things that you share online.
- If you want to join online groups/communities and you’re underage, talk about it with your carer. While Facebook communities are a great way to connect and share common interests with people from afar, you always want to be extra careful if you’re interacting online with people you don’t know personally. Ask your carer to go through your privacy settings with you, and look at the group rules and guidelines before joining. If there’s anything that doesn’t seem appropriate or makes you feel worried, look for a different community group!
- Be aware of cyberbullying or trolling. If you feel like you’re getting treated unfairly, are being bullied, or don’t feel comfortable with something happening online, you can report this to the social media platform. You can also report this to eSafety and the police if you feel really unsafe. Reach out to places like Lifeline or Kids Helpline for support if you’re feeling upset or worried about something that has happened online.
The most important thing is to make sure you feel comfortable. Online groups and communities are great ways to interact with people, but it is important to be aware that you NEVER have to share information online that you’re not comfortable with. If you’re ever unsure, act on the side of caution and ask someone else – an adult or a friend, or check out the eSafety government website.
For more information on online safety, head to the eSafety website! https://www.esafety.gov.au