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‘Free to be me: exploring identity online.’ 

This year’s focus for Safer Internet Day in the UK was getting people to explore how they manage their online identity and think about how the internet shapes their own opinions of themselves 

I remember watching a TED Talk by Jennifer Golbeck back in 2013 called The Curly Fry Conundrum. I was probably drawn to it by the title, but the content was all about how online advertisers and social media platforms know more about you than you ever thought possible. This got me thinking about everything I’ve ever done online – especially because the internet has a much better memory than I do! How many times have you seen your ‘Facebook Memories’ and been reminded of something you’d forgotten? 

With young people having more access to online devices from an earlier age, the opportunity for the internet to remember things about us has grown immensely. A recent report from Childwise found that just over half of 7-year olds now own a mobile phone. By the age of 11, that’s risen to 90%.  image.png

With these statistics in mind, should parents and schools start educating younger children about how to use these devices and how to behave online?  

The problems that arise from young people being online for longer have far reaching consequences. Social media anxiety is increasing. The BBC recently polled young people, finding that 70% of them are unhappy with their looks. This is not surprising considering the constant judging that social media encourages: the negative comments (trolling), number of ‘likes’ as well as the targeted ads and posts where imperfections are edited out. The more these images are seen, the more they become normal. It is so important for children to learn that what they see online is not the whole story.  

As educators, we need to provide children with strategies to help them deal with the pressures associated with being young in a social media focussed world. Let them know who they can turn to. Support them to cut back on their social media time.  

Help them see the world outside their screen and the realities it offers, flaws and all.  

Edited by Jules

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