editors letterYOU could liken the internet and social media to a department store where the staff have gone home for the night and left all the doors open.
There’s no doubt that simple-minded people, young people who haven’t thought of the consequences and even everyday citizens who haven’t thought it through would be in there before long stealing clothes, TVs and all the rest.
Pretty soon, you’d have a full-scale looting incident on your hands.
There would be others who’d stand back and say “that’s wrong”.
“You can’t be in there stealing someone else’s stuff just because they’ve left their door open.”
But, to a certain extent, people need to be protected from themselves which is why Myer closes its doors every night and even has CCTV and security guards checking the place out.
That’s not the case on the internet and on social media.
Sure, the police and other authorities are monitoring trouble spots but it’s such a massive expanse that it’s almost impossible to ‘save people from themselves’ where the internet is concerned.
We all know people who have become ‘addicted’ to playing poker, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and even shopping and dating online.
And the local Magistrates’ courts hear a constant stream of problems created by people posting offensive remarks and details online or breaching intervention orders by abusing partners or former friends on Facebook etc.
But, of course, there are a lot more sinister things out there in the cyber world than these relatively harmless activities and minor disputes.
The door is open to every depraved sort of pursuit that you can imagine and many thousands of people, who don’t appreciate the implications, have become addicted to searching these sites.
They’ll sit on them for hours, even interacting live with some of the other individuals with whom they come into contact.
Worse still, there is every sort of criminal scumbag out there in cyberspace that you could (or could not) imagine looking for the opportunity to take you and yours down.
Let’s not overstate the position, though.
The vast majority of what goes on online, on social media and all the rest, is fine. In fact it has become a necessary part of everyday life for all of us but it doesn’t mean we should ignore the risks, especially where our children and other vulnerable people are concerned.
At what age, for example, should we be giving our children their own Smart device, the gateway to all that the internet has to offer?
Are they of an age where they can comprehend the risks and avoid the pitfalls?
And to what extent should we monitor what our children are doing online or even challenging our partners, family members or work colleagues about their internet activities?
At the very least we should be talking to our kids about the risks that exist on the internet and giving them firm guidance about what to do if they encounter something they are uncomfortable about.
Older teenagers and others who might be tempted to post abuse, accusations or offensive material on social networking sites also need to get the message that it’s just not on.
The reality is that there’s no one in charge of the internet who can save us from ourselves and because everything is moving so fast in that space, society is struggling to keep up.
But we also need to be aware that the law will come down heavily on those doing the wrong thing because it must.
They won’t even be touching the iceberg, however, and we must be the ones who close the door to crime on the internet and the campaign starts at home.