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Friday, 27 January 2012

The vulnerable in a virtual world

Spent the afternoon doing special training about safety on the internet and just how much kids, and adults, need to be aware of its 'dark side'. It's easy to imagine how kids, and adults, can get sucked into out of control situations.

There's something about the internet, which, fan as I am, has often disturbed me. Perhaps it comes from the solitary element combined with opportunities for communication? Whatever it is, there's a potential temptation for individuals to create a fantasy world, project an image of themselves, or blur the boundaries in ways they'd never dream of trying out in 'real life'. The internet mashes up the real and the virtual in some very strange ways. Virtual life doesn't seem real. It can seem like a game, a pastime, a secret world even; a place where an individual can create or even confront a secret self, and even find others on-line with whom they can try out aspects of their personalities which they might suppress or find hard to express in real life. That might not be such a bad thing in itself, if the participants are adult -although it surely carries it's own dangers - but statistics suggest there's lot of unpleasant, disturbed and manipulative people out there who are waiting for a chance to 'do their thing'. Shadowy flatters lie in wait, to exploit the vulnerable - hence the numbers of groomers preying on the young and vulnerable. Plus the bullying, which can include manipulating images and hounding others.

Nasty. Horrid. Thank goodness that agencies have been set up to help deal with it. Although given the commercialisation of social networking and gaming sites, there's still a way to go.

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