At BeSmartOnline! (The Maltese Safer Internet Centre), we’re all for using technology for self-improvement, entertainment, and connectivity. We love the possibilities it entails, and the growth and enrichment it provides. Unfortunately, we also see the negative impact that it leaves on young and brilliant minds. The constant connectivity to devices can leave you confused, more isolated than connected, and more depressed than happy. Striking the balance between the online and the offline world is essential to our own well-being.
Spending longer hours online, on multi-player platform games and/or social media, also increases the possibility of being targeted by other individuals with the intention of harming you. It is vital to remain vigilant and to speak up whenever we feel uncomfortable with anything that you might be experiencing when online. Additionally, dealing with the situation on your own might make you more vulnerable; it might get way out of hand and be just too much for any individual to be able to control and contain. Always know that you can call 179 and contact BeSmartOnline!, where there are many people who are happy and prepared to help you.
Here are some key pointers that could help you decipher whether a situation might be getting out of hand:
- If someone asks you to share nude selfies, remember that if you are an individual under the age of 18 you are essentially creating illegal content. Also remember that no matter how much you trust the person you are sending it to, you can never foresee where your picture might end up being shared and when it will surface. Ask yourself: ‘’Would I feel comfortable if my head of school saw this picture?’’ before sending it.
- If a person who you met online starts to instigate sexual conversation, and also tells you to keep the conversation and them a secret, more often than not it’s a red flag that the person on the other end of the chat is a predator, or someone who does not have good intentions.
- If you’re having more than just an argument online, always remember that anything you do can be tracked and traced. The conversation can be recorded and used as evidence against you. Remember, there is a fine line between arguing and being extremely mean to one another. The latter is not to be tolerated. Exercise your restraint and assertiveness, rather than bullying one another. Remember you are responsible for the hurt you are causing the other person no matter how annoying you might find them to be.
- If the game you are playing is putting so much pressure on you to be active online that it is interfering with you enjoying time away from your device, always remember that you have every right to enjoy quality time offline without distraction.
- If you’re finding yourself spending extremely long hours online either playing, chatting, or sharing photos, it might be an indication that you are missing out on the quality of life you are living. Your overdependence might be causing you to be off your balance when it comes to your sleep, relationships with your family and real-life friends, and your own personal well-being.
We, as human beings, have more than just two senses: the sense of hearing and sight. Enjoy your summer to the fullest by engaging all of your physical sensations. Try not to trap your mind inside a game, or constantly distract yourself by the notifications of your phone. Control the use of your devices to make your day better, rather than letting your devices control you into missing out on life. Do yourself a kindness and take care of yourself first and foremost.
For more information, find us online at www.besmartonline.org.mt or you can follow us on Facebook. Remember, if you ever feel uncomfortable online, you can reach us on 179. We wish you a great and happy summer, filled with beautiful memories, both online and offline, and always remember to be smart online.
Find out more about the work of the Maltese Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.