“Right to change, Responsibility to Act”

We must reflect on how much we have changed in these ten years of Safer Internet Day. MySpace was first created back in 2003 and peaked at about 100 million unique users in three years. It was the leading social network with over 75% of Market Share. Now in 2013, it has 4%. Think about it.

Twenty Years ago which is not a long time ago for some, we were worried that we would break the Internet. Now, the internet is breaking us.

We still have the same rights and responsibilities as then however. What are these rights? Unfortunately, many don’t know. We should all have the right to experience the internet in a safe, learning and fun environment. The internet is something that should be for everyone – with no discrimination of race, sex, socio-economic status etc. It is OUR place.

Our responsibility is to ensure that everyone has this right. We must use the internet and leave it as we find it. Giving everyone an equal chance to use the internet how they like it is important, so making sure everyone has a good experience is even more important.

However, people aren’t receiving the rights they are entitled to and are ignoring their respective responsibilities.

Though we are all arrogant by saying we are the best informed generation of Internet intelligence, we definitely still haven’t learned anything about being respectful or considerate online. It isn’t difficult to recognise the trend between cyber-bullying numbers which have skyrocketed exponentially while internet user numbers have increased. Why is this?

Cyber-bullying is arguably the worst category of the horrible thing that is bullying. What began on phones and simple instant messaging has easily transferred to its social networking brethren. And what makes it even worse is that sarcastic comments and jokes don’t convert well. What sounds funny spoken seems harsh written. But there’s a question on everyone’s lips:

Why isn’t someone stopping them? Surely you know who it is by their name beside the post?

Most of our generation consider them jokes. Sure, anything nasty said about someone’s appearance or hurtful messages must be a joke and anyone who calls it bullying can’t take a joke. Here is where we as Youths are so very wrong. New developments also are parody accounts, who can sometimes post hurtful things repetitively as an act of ‘trolling’.

One thing we forget is that some users (especially fans of celebrities or of accounts with lots of followers) gang up on individuals. For example, someone could comment something negative about Justin Bieber’s new album. His/Her negativity angers many of the 33 million ‘Beliebers’ and that comment calls them to action. Imagine for a minute, receiving 100+ hurtful messages in the space of a few minutes. This unfortunately is the new ‘karma’ for commenting on anything online. They shouldn’t have to go through this. Their rights should protect them. But people just conform and watch the world pass them by

As bystanders, this is almost us holding up a sign saying ‘Go Ahead!’ to the bullys. With no repercussions to their acts, they believe it is ok to continue. IT IS NOT OK. The Irish focus for SID2013 is to target the bystanders in these circumstances. It will make the circumstances much easier for the target of the bullying when they know that their friends will support them. The signs of cyber-bullying must be learned because after tragic events here in Ireland, we must ensure it never happens again. Thus, we remind everyone of their responsibilities and reinstate rights which were violated.

The Minister for Children here in Ireland said recently ‘It’s the cruelty, not the conduit’. And though it may be hard to accept, we have to agree. The Internet has arguably improved its standard of safety and though it is still developing faster than we can react, it is a much better place than it was years ago. We should still have the right to go online and explore the vast world it presents us with without worry of immediate danger.

My advice: Have confidence in the internet you use and take FULL advantage of it. We often take these things for granted. Remember your rights, but more importantly remember your responsibility as an internet user. We must be the creators of an even better internet, where bad comments and negativity are rare occasions.

The Internet is constantly changing, and so must we.

By Matthew O’Driscoll

Leave a Reply