By Sacha Lazimi, co-founder and CEO of Yubo
Staying safe online is an issue that affects us all. The internet is a powerful modern day tool and as social media becomes part of all our daily lives, keeping our children safe in the digital world should be of as much importance as protecting them from harm in the offline world.
Sourcing information digitally is fast becoming the norm as we look for on demand content and instant answers to all of life’s questions. Gen Z’ers are unlikely to refer to books the way generations before them have, and why should they? This is a generation who have grown up in the most technologically advanced period of our time. Most use up to 5 social channels per day for everything from shopping to gaming, learning new skills, sharing experiences and developing new connections. The list goes on.
With so much importance placed in these digital worlds, ensuring we know how to use them and access information safely is a top priority and learning social media literacy is hugely imperative so we can reap the positive benefits of these platforms in the most responsible way.
So what is social media literacy and why is it important?
We are taught traditional literacy skills – reading, writing, listening, speaking – as we progress through our school years. But today’s digital world demands more than just this knowledge, to ensure we are fully in control of our online presence, making the most of the opportunities they bring whilst steering clear of risks. It’s crucial for children to become ‘social media literate’ – they must be taught not only how to utilise these platforms correctly but how to recognise the dangers that come with being active in an unimaginably overpopulated world. With over 1 billion users on Facebook, nearly as many Twitter profiles active and over 30 million people using Instagram daily, adolescents need to be taught the skills to find, create and consume digital media mindfully and appropriately address digital challenges.
The benefits of social media literacy for everyone
Gen Z have had a head start at understanding social media literacy, but just because these ‘digital natives’ have never known a world without it does not mean that they know how to use these platforms safely. If young people are unaware of the digital footprint they are leaving behind they can succumb to the perils of cyberbullying, cyber predators, scamming and lots more – all of which can have devastating consequences. Schools should be engaged at an early age and social media literacy should be a part of every curriculum, so we can drive home the importance of simple online safety techniques- such as using strong passwords, verifying information and checking location settings- that could have major benefits in the long run.
Social media literacy isn’t just crucial for younger generations to learn, millions of millennials are now parents and guardians who although active on MSN and Bebo as tweens, still aren’t armed with the right knowledge and information to curate a child-friendly social media diet in 2021. This is especially prevalent if parenting teens – people at the age of ‘identity development’ trying to establish who they are.
Without a parental figure to educate them on what’s real and what’s not social media can have a horrible habit of making you believe you should look or act a certain way. Respecting others online is as important as respecting yourself and we should teach our children the consequences of online actions that have real world implications – whether that be now or in the future.
Starting the learning process
Social media platforms have a major role to play in assisting with this learning process. Just monitoring behaviour is not enough, we must actively educate users on how to act in a responsible way so they think twice before participating in inappropriate behaviours. Advances in digital technology are creating innovative solutions to these problems – steps forward in Artificial Intelligence have been key to tackling a multitude of problems young people are facing online.
For example, at Yubo we use a combination of sophisticated AI technology and human interaction to monitor users behaviour in real-time sending alerts if personal information or inappropriate images or videos are attempting to be sent – highlighting the dangers around sharing sensitive information and prompting them to rethink their actions. We are committed to providing a safe place for Gen Z to connect and socialise – we know our user base is of an age where if we can strengthen their online skills now then we can mould their behaviours in a positive way for the future. Preparing children with the skills to navigate social media is key, by keeping them informed around the choices they make we can begin to improve all our digital lives.