As another day dawns I have been watching the BBC news, and yet another discussion about the dangers of the Internet. It all seems so reactive to me – then again I know that the press have their own agenda.
For example, I was once asked to appear on a TV news programme to speak about a court case at which the defendant was jailed for murder. The journalist happily told me he had met his victim on the internet and wanted to make the point that adults are at risk too. As usual I said, ‘I’ll ring you back’. On further investigation I discovered it was a case of domestic violence – but – the murderer had met his wife through an online dating site five years previously. Needless to say I declined.
My point here is not that there aren’t a lot of nasty and unwholesome things going on online, but that we are often given a particular view that means the Internet has become the ‘moral panic’ of our age. As a result our responses and strategies are often reactive rather than proactive.
So what is the solution?
My underlying gut feeling is that most internet safety problems can be approached (notice I didn’t say solved) by looking at the management of personal information - your own and others! Whenever I speak to children and young people I always ask how they would feel walking down the street shouting ' my name is... I live at ... here look at my holiday photos...etc', and then ask why they think it is any different in cyberspace!
These children and young people of the Internet Age are now becoming adults, and I am beginning to hear mumblings about those in positions of trust and authority – teachers and doctors face-booking and tweeting confidential information.
So I ask again - what is the solution?