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What do Seat Belts Have in Common with Cyber Safety?

When seat belts were first introduced, auto makers did not want to install them into their cars, feeling that it would add an unnecessary expense to the cost of a car. What does that have to do with cyberbullying in social media?

The conclusion that I draw is based on the same reason: cost. Many people wonder how so much cyberbullying can occur online. After all, shouldn’t the companies/sites do more to help prevent it? The plain and simple truth is that the companies really can’t prevent anyone from committing inappropriate behavior.

The best that they can do is punitively punish someone by closing their account, as Twitter did when people attacked Zelda Williams recently. As easy as it is to open an account with most social media companies, they could have created a new account in minutes. That assumes that the accounts in question were not already seen as being disposable in the first place.

Facebook makes their position very clear. In their terms and conditions, the number one social media company in the world explains, “We do our best to keep Facebook safe, but we cannot guarantee it.”

The companies would face an impossible business model if they even tried to monitor all users’ activity or cyberbullying or predatory content. Instead, they rely on users tipping them off about inappropriate content. That’s why it’s so important that if you are ever the recipient of such material that you do not delete the evidence.

The situation is similar to swimming in a pool when there is no lifeguard on duty. Anyone swimming at those times does so at their own risk. This all assumes that the companies could even do the job accurately. Bear in mind that there would most likely be plenty of scenarios where things would be misunderstood, resulting in massive lawsuits.

Then comes the problems relating to the Internet being a global stage. Different laws, cultures and accepted norms will vary greatly. Consider for example, the video below, which shows what happened when a couple from England were held by Homeland Security over the interpretation of a slang expression in England being taken literally by law enforcement.

What this means is that everyone using the Internet needs to be their own safety belt, their own lifeguard. It may not be a good place to be, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.

About the Author

Joe Yeager is the founder of Safety Net of PA, LLC and has been a cyber safety advocate for several years. He is an adjunct professor at Philadelphia University, where has been teaching several classes that involve using technology to improve the quality of their schoolwork.

As the founder of Safety Net, Joe provides a variety of presentations on improving the online experience, both in better educational performance and in cyber safety. It was after his own daughter came across inappropriate content online that got him involved in helping others in the area.

His work on cyber safety has been published by the Family Online Safety Institute, the Social Media Club, Calkins Media and more. He is also the author of #DigitalParenting- A Parent's Guide to Social Media, Cyberbullying & Online Activity, which was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in April 2016.

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