The advent of social media has significantly revolutionized the way we relate to others. It has become easier than ever to find people with common interests and connect with those whom we love and care. The entire world is growing up online. Due to the absolute convenience and easy access the social networking sites offer, social media is becoming one of the most widely used tools for marketing or information-sharing. Today, many people are using social media like Facebook and Twitter even to organize informal gatherings and to share the event with the public. However with so many young people growing up online using social media, their personal safety is becoming a concern for parents and teachers. The recent rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in Gomtu is a gruesome reminder that social media can be dangerous if you don’t know how to use it responsibly.
While social media can be a great place to connect with friends and families, it also provides an ideal place for human predators to track and prey on those individuals who appear vulnerable and weak. Since it is beyond the control of social networking sites to filter out people with evil intentions, the responsibility to stay safe ultimately falls on the individual user. It is therefore very important not to accept friend-requests from strangers on Facebook and other social sites you use. If we all know how to maintain our privacy online and allow only those whom we personally know to be our virtual friends, we would be safe. There is less chance that we would be betrayed and bullied.
Although no survey has ever been conducted to study the adverse impact of social media on young people in Bhutan, the Youth Forums that we conduct at regular intervals have seen many people sharing their painful experiences of how they are sexually harassed and bullied by strangers on Facebook. Some girls have even reported how men as old as their father have tried to flirt with them. Believe it or not, there are many men lurking on social media who are always eyeing on young girls since they are an easy prey. The girls should always remember how to set their boundaries online and keep the intruders out at bay. This can be done by limiting the amount of personal information you share online and accepting friend-requests only from those whom you personally know. . Sharing stuffs that are too personal would easily lure the predators who can take advantage of the information you have shared and groom you slowly to become their victims sooner or later. If you don’t know how to play it safe, social media is no longer a safe haven with pedophiles, rapists and scammers hiding behind fake profiles. If the victim of the recent murder case in Gomtu had not fallen in love with the stranger she had met on Facebook, she would be still alive today. Although it is the first incident ever reported in Bhutan, We can never say it would be the last.
I have been trying to educate my children on the responsible use of social media right from now because I know it is going to be an integral part of their life as they grow up. My 14-year-old daughter is already on Facebook and I could not deny her the right to experience what her friends are enjoying. She had been requesting for a mobile phone since last year just because all of her friends got one. This is how peer pressure affects your way of life. Last winter, she kept on begging for a decent mobile phone promising she would use it only during the vacation and during weekends. I and my wife had actually thought that we would give her the facility only after she completes class 10. But her constant pleas soon melted our hearts and we had to submit to her demand. We bought her a Samsung device on the condition that she should keep her promise and use it only during weekends. She had already created her Facebook account long before we gave her the mobile phone. I and my wife were left shocked how she could have learned to use Facebook. Since then, I have been always telling her that she should always be careful on Facebook and accept friend-requests only from those she personally knows. She tells me that she only has her classmates and school-friends on her friends-list and she never chats with strangers. I have told her how dangerous can Facebook be if she is not careful. I have been frequently reminding her that she should never trust strangers on social media. Until now, I think she is keeping my words because whenever I log onto her Facebook account, I can see many unapproved friend-requests from boys and her chat history shows only those conversations she had with her classmates. I am keeping a close watch over her activities on social media just to make sure she is always safe. I shall also print the Kuensel article on the latest gruesome incident in Gomtu and share it with her to educate her on the danger of social media. It is really important for us to groom our children well right from their early age so that they can learn how to become a responsible user of social media when they grow up. The most important thing our youth should keep in mind is that social media is a double-edged sword. If you know how to use it responsibly, it is a great source of information and gives you an ideal platform to connect and interact with your loved ones. But if you take things for granted, you might also slip off into the arms of your enemies. So always watch out for people with evil intentions and keep your boundary within the limit of your comfort zone.