On the top of headlines in my home country Sweden at the moment is a 17 year old girl who, by posting nude pictures of her friends (who are under 18) to Instagram have caused her fellow students to turn into a lynch mob looking to cause her serious bodily harm. The girl has been arrested and moved to a secret location so as not to end up injured or worse.
There was also a case in Japan a couple of years ago where a semi-famous Japanese comedian was hounded by people on the internet claiming that he had taken part in the murder of a young girl many years ago. This case ended with 19 people being arrested and charged with slander.
In the Swedish case the discussion is about how social media makes it possible for people to organize and gather in an extremely short period of time. Groups are set up via Facebook and information along with GPS coordinates are sent through smartphones and twitter instantly making it easy to follow events real time. Local police do not have the resources to monitor activities real time and it is therefore difficult for them to respond in a timely manner.
These tools have been formerly praised in the Arabic spring as demonstrators across Northern Africa were using them to organize demonstrations which ultimately ended up toppling governments.
So there is nothing new about youths picking up on how to use technology to their advantage and the establishment being slow and far behind. A lynch mob is obviously not the best way to approach the issue but the truth of the matter is that these internet savy youths through their own internet research actually found the right perpetrator and which school she was attending.
Which brings me to what I believe is the heart of the matter.
People are not taught and do not understand that the Internet is a public space and you are equally responsible for your actions there as you might be in a public square in your home town. There is obvious lack of education in this area and I do not think it would be going to far to say that there is an obvious need for this to be taught in schools. After all the latest research out of Sweden says that 40% of 3 year old’s are accessing the internet.
So I recommend the following curriculum to be taught from pre-school:
1. Understanding of Networks, IP Addresses,Routing, DNS and Protocols
- Explained in a graphic and easy way this is easily understood by children
2. Distinguishing between robots and humans
- Robots are becoming more sophisticated and mimicking human behaviour. Learn easy tricks to tell whether is it a human or a bot with whom you are communicating.
3. Internet Bullying
- Just because you can not see someone’s face does not mean thy are not there. You words and comments on the internet have the same consequences and responsibility as though you were speaking to a normal person
4. Internet Predators
- People might not be who they say they are. Never meet someone in person without taking an adult with you that you know.
5. Personal information
- Never post your contact details like e-mail and phone number in a public place. Always use a direct message
- Never tell anyone your password or let them borrow your account
7. Take responsibility
- Do not say something if you do not mean it. If you were wrong say you are sorry.
8. Pictures & Video
- When you upload a picture or video everyone in the world can see it. Be careful that you do not embaress yourself or your friends and family.
9. If you have trouble.
- Just like in the real world the police patrol the internet and make sure that we are safe. But if you have trouble the first person you should tell is your parents
10. The ever replicating world wide web
- When you upload something to the internet it never really gets completely removed. What you do today will have an impact on your future as it can all be located through web searches.
If anyone is interested I would be more than happy to do a presentation or short class.