Cyber Safety: A Responsibility for Us All

Twitter.
Instagam.
Facebook.
YouTube.
Snapchat.

Like it or not, social media is a powerful force in today’s society. Not only is it used for sharing personal bits of life, but it is used by news channels to share information, police stations to send out “missing persons” reports, and celebrities to share the latest and greatest gossip from their lives.  It is intertwined in virtually every arena of our lives today.

However, social media has a dark side – a side that has become more and more public in light of issues such as cyber-bullying and its related suicides.  And while we may think, “Oh, something like that could never happen to the young people I know,” the reality is that many young people are frequently logging into social media accounts and are putting themselves “out there” online.

In a recent study (ICM, 2014) conducted by the Institute for Church Ministry, young people within the Seventh-day Adventist church were asked if their peers have at least one social media account.  Over half (52%) responded, “Absolutely!”

When asked if they, themselves, had a social media account, 56% stated that they always or often use at least one social media outlet.

Because of the prevalence of social media, it is vital that we educate our young people on not only the dangers of its misuse, but also on how to use it properly.  And, while some may argue that teaching responsible use of social media should fall on parents’ shoulders, it is clear that this is not an issue being addressed adequately in the home or at school; if it were, there would not be so many continued issues.  This is an issue that affects us all and therefore is something that we all should be invested in.

The website www.cyberbullying.us has some great tips on online responsibility that you can share with the youth in your church:

  • Assume that everyone has access to your profile. If you don’t want anyone and everyone to know about it, don’t put it online.  A good safety step is to make your profiles “private” so that you can control who views your content.
  • Use discretion when putting up pictures.  While many pictures may be posted between friends in a spirit of fun or as a joke, to the rest of the world these items may appear inappropriate.  Also keep in mind that anything posted online can be saved by anyone who sees it – be that person friend or foe.
  • Assume people WILL use the information on your profile to cause you harm.  Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to know.  Also, if someone you don’t know tries to view your information, be skeptical.  A lot of young people think it’s “cool” to accumulate a lot of friends, but if you don’t know the person, it’s impossible to know their motive in adding you.[1]

(For the full article, check out http://www.cyberbullying.us/safe_responsible_social_networking.pdf or the website www.cyberbullying.us.)

Once again, these may seem like things that parents should be covering at home with their children.  However, the fact remains that problems related to online accounts and social media are only a growing concern.  By taking the time to educate the young people at your church, you may be preventing them from enduring painful, as well as potentially dangerous, situations.


[1] Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2009). Safe and Responsible Social Networking. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.cyberbullying.us/safe_responsible_social_networking.pdf