By Spencer Seymour
With the rapid development of technology over the last two decades, the gap of understanding between generations as it pertains to the usage of the internet and social media platforms has never been greater.
Ashley Sametz is an expert in cyber-security and currently works for Blackberry as a Security Communications Manager as well as working with law enforcement to ensure online safety, especially relating to children being exposed to human trafficking, sexual predators and terrorism recruiters. She came to DCVI to speak to local parents about the dangers of some of the most popular social media apps available today, including Snapchat and TikTok.
One of the things she focused on was how scarily easy it is for people with basic research abilities and the right online software to collect an alarming amount of data. She gave an example of a website called PeekYou, which allows users to enter in a username and quickly find all of the social media and online accounts associated with that username. She also talked about how, because of the constant stream of information coming through social media, young people are actually having part of their brain rewired to always be looking for something new. Additionally, she encouraged parents to try to limit their kid’s excessive internet and social media usage as an internet addiction can lead to a significant decrease in brain mass.
Additionally, she spoke about the importance of kids and adults working together to better understand the dangers lurking on each social media and taking reasonable precaution in protecting oneself from those perils. This may include parents speaking to their kids about which social media platforms they use, why and how they use it, and trying it out for themselves. Additionally, everyone is encouraged to turn off geolocation on their mobile devices. Geolocation is the feature that allows devices to track where the user of the device goes and begin tracking their movement patterns. This is what causes people to receive updates on their device about how long it may take to reach a specific destination, such as home or their workplace.
Due to the sheer complexity of the topic, it was impossible to go through the opposite side of the coin, the benefits of the social media apps and platforms that young people access frequently. However, she reiterated multiple times for parents and grandparents to not vilify or discount the value of social media. While there are scary and varying dangers that lurk within different social media apps, there are definite and invaluable benefits to young people accessing these apps. One of the biggest is that is has become a prime source for young people to access reliable and critical information about the world around them. While there are lots of false information spread on social media, with the guidance of parents and teachers about what reliable sources are and how to determine a source’s reliability, young people are much better equipped to find trustworthy information in a format they prefer. Additionally, the ability to connect to so many more people has given young people, especially those suffering from mental illness, the chance to connect and share personal thoughts, feelings and emotions they may not be as comfortable sharing in a more direct, face-to-face way.