Guilty

Should Social Media be an Adult-Only Zone?

Every so often, I encounter another teenage nightmare unfolding on the internet. It starts out innocent, but as the social media machine takes over, it's an avalanche that threatens to bury everyone alive. And I sit on the sidelines, watching all the chaos as society spirals down into another hate-fest.

For years, I've been obsessed with how social media has taken such a hold of our everyday lives. The writer in me is watching every worst-case scenario play out within the digital world, and I keep asking how it could get worse. (Because as any writer can tell you, it can always get worse.)

In the beginning, social media was a brilliant concept. It was a place where people could connect with each other and form working relationships with people who were on the other side of the planet. But as its popularity grew and more people flocked to various platforms, the social dynamics changed. In some cases, the interactions descended into a toxic cesspit needing a HazMat suit with breathing apparatus to even enter. At which point, another platform would seem to spring forth with the promise of a safe-and-inclusive environment.

Regardless of what social media has become, social media and the internet form a huge part of the world we now live in. My children have never known a life where the internet didn't exist—and my oldest is now in his 20s.

Two decades. So much of our world has changed in those two decades.

So, when I see the teenage nightmares unfolding on social media, it's not surprising to me that there is an outcry of people wanting to make social media an adult-only zone. I can understand where the viewpoints are coming from that want to classify social media usage in the same way we do alcohol and driving. But as the number of these negative events grow—sometimes, resulting in the death of yet another teen—there is only one thought that goes through my mind:

Where are the parents teaching their children how to socially behave on the internet?

If you're willing to stick around, I'll do the best I can to explain why I feel that the deplorable nature of social media is actually the responsibility of parents and how I went about teaching my children to cope with the social media cesspit.

It's an interesting tale, involving Scouts, my children, my writing, and my obsession with social media and online behavior.

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We Let the Strangers In: The Hunting Trolls

Anyone who has ever worked on social media will know what the troll behavior is like. The trolls are the people who seem to take pleasure out of creating animosity and hatred. They will say things to provoke a reaction. And when they catch someone in their sights, they decide it's time to play.

The best advice that anyone can be given when it comes to dealing with trolls is to just ignore them. Most of the time, if you don't entertain them, they will give up and move on.

But there is a rare breed of troll who develops a vendetta—and no amount of ignoring them will make them go away. The trolls see something in you that makes them think that you're vulnerable and they attack. And they keep attacking until you finally break down.

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We Let Them In: Is Privacy Dead?

Protecting oneself on the internet is something that I'm highly passionate about. There are so many ways to get into big trouble within our online interactions that I've made it a personal mission to understand the true nature of the dangers out there.

This is the world that my children are growing up in. They have never known a life when the internet didn't exist. Social media in its various forms has become a massive part of the way they're expected to interact with the world at large, and it's my job, as their mother, to ensure that they know how to navigate this internet-based world safely.

With the increase in internet dependency within our daily lives, there are certain questions that have started to leak to the surface of my consciousness. Almost everything that we do is now online, with very few exceptions.

Sure, you have social media, YouTube and blogs, and TV through the internet means that we can watch what we want to watch when we want to watch it. However, you also have online banking, and you can buy your groceries online. I can pay for my car registration and file my taxes online. I order replacement gas bottles for the house through an app on my phone and I can report issues regarding water leaks or other hazards in my neighborhood using a different app.

My children are expected to submit their homework assignments online. They are even required to sit major exams using online tools. When they were still in high school, I got their report cards sent to me through an online website.

My husband gets his payslips online, and I get paid by overseas clients through online services. Even my royalty checks come in through online payments.

Everything about our world has shifted to online.

New Zealand, as a whole, has become a near cashless society, with EftPos found almost everywhere you go. Those payments go through the internet. Sure, I do have some cash in my wallet, but not much. Everything of importance is bought and paid for using online means.

Yes, this shift to an internet-based society has, for the most part, made our lives easier, but has it really made it safer?

How has this push to doing everything online affected our sense of privacy and security?

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We Let Strangers In: Internet Bullies

Have you ever been in a situation where you have given your opinion on something based on your knowledge and expertise only to be shot down by one ignorant fool? Have you ever had that experience on social media? And have you ever found that when you chose to ignore the ignorant fool on social media that they kept coming after you—attacking your character? And, to top off the whole experience, did you need a friend to step in and handle it, for fear that you would just explode on public channels?

I would be surprised if I encountered anyone savvy with the social media world who hasn't experience the troll attack at least once. It seems like a rite of passage to the internet world. For the most part, we're able to ignore the trolls, because they're after some strange definition of self-gratification, enjoying taking everyone else down into the dark hole of hell. But what if the troll is actually a stranger that we have openly let into our lives, influencing us?

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The Strangers We Let See Facebook

It's been a while since I've written on my personal blog. This has been for a few reasons, the biggest of which I've been focusing on my fictional writing, trying to finish my crime novel.

Well, the draft of my crime novel is complete, and it currently in the hands of a developmental editor. While I wait patiently for his comments (and trust me, it has been a patient wait, as I'm not ready to delve back into edits yet), I thought I'd turn my attention back to something else that I'm just as passionate about.

Protecting ourselves on the internet.

For years, on the Editor's Blog on Black Wolf Editorial, I've been writing about some of the hidden traps associated with working online. Back in February, I decided to start a series here on my personal blog that delves into the mind of the bad guys who use the internet to prey on the innocent.

In the first post, I wrote about Twitter and how it's actually what we post that can be more of the security risk. Today, I want to look at some of the settings on Facebook, things that many of us never bothered to consider a risk.

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