KICKER: Valuable tool

Banning is not the answer

Social media platforms weren’t new when Facebook and Twitter came into the picture, but they were innovative enough to appeal to generations of young users. Despite the public space, it gave privacy and the ability to chat with friends without much, if any, external authoritarian censorship in tow.

Nowadays however, Twitter shares have fallen as new user numbers decrease annually and Facebook has become the digital domicile of doting parents. Now, younger generations are looking to app-based social platforms such as Yik-Yak, because it provides them with their private communication needs. With this new avenue comes the same old problem.

Giving children free reign to communicate with any random person they meet online obviously has its risks. Bullies can intimidate safely behind their cloak of anonymity and have little fear of repercussions, and keyboard-warriors post vitriolic comments. Worse still, child predators and terrorists can and have inveigled their way into a child’s life without anyone knowing. Kik is a very popular app for sending explicit messages, as it allows you to message others without giving out your phone number. The app itself is rated for use by ages of 17 and over.

However, this is not to say a total ban on using social media is the answer. It can and does help to promote positive interactions between people of different backgrounds, who normally would either never have met or kept in touch in the traditional way.

Monitoring a child’s internet usage has to meet the median point between ‘big brother’ and easy-going parent, erring more towards the former in the case of a minor.

In summation; social media platforms have, and unfortunately will continue to be, appropriated by sinister groups because they are in effect, a free public forum. But given the proper monitoring and safeguards put in place, you can reduce the danger to those at risk. You must also keep in mind that the internet is a valuable tool and necessary for children, and people in general, to learn to navigate safely.

From Mr Daryl Mac Oirghialla

IT personnel based in Dublin, Ireland

KICKER: Double-edged sword

Communication and trust is key

While I do believe in honest and open communication combined with open expression, anonymity is a double-edged sword, which must be used with great respect and care.

The market price of these anonymous apps might run into millions but the feature that allows users to spread false rumours makes consumers extremely vulnerable, and contributes to cyberbullying. Those who use these apps for wrong reasons have zero accountability for what they post and this can lead to various crimes.

Irrespectively, companies will continue to produce and market such apps, and encourage users by telling them that they have ‘safety features’ that detect threats. I don’t think we should fall for such empty assurances, without proof!

It is best for us as parents to discuss the matter with our teenage children, advise them not to fall prey to cyberbullies and to avoid downloading such applications on their phones. The problem is that these apps seem very user-friendly and are aimed at the young, naive and trusting children who don’t understand the dangers that come with clicking ‘download’.

Continuously communicating with our children, establishing trust with them, and instilling them with the confidence to not only stand up for themselves, but to voice their concerns, is a great way to counter the disadvantages of this medium. Educating the youth on proper and respectful communication is key to reducing these problems. Even as a community, we may not be able to ban these apps and eliminating them is also not the answer, because that is when peer pressure steps into the picture.

Users themselves must learn to differentiate between good and bad, and always remember that the best way to combat negative speech is through positive speech.

We may not be able to protect our children from every bully, but at least we can educate ourselves and our children regarding potential threats and ways to combat them.

From Mr Yusuf Sait

Executive director based in Dubai

KICKER: Technological advance

If you prefer anonymity, then go for it

We live in an age of technological advances, and we are constantly surprised by new inventions. However, I don’t agree with banning anything. If we were to do so, we are actually giving more importance to the product when it is banned, thus giving way for further reproduction.

These applications should be used accordingly but in the context of user anonymity, such apps can be developed according to user authenticity.

Writing something without disclosing the person’s identity is not such a bad thing to do. We should allow a person to disclose anything, to allow him/her free expression of thought. They may not want to pour their heart out publicly, so if it can be expressed through posting something on a social platform or using an application, why should we block it?

I have observed many instances when people want to express their feelings or opinions about certain topics without revealing their identities. They may not want to post it on Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp, however, if they post it on one of these anonymous user apps, they would not suffer any consequences. Letting people be anonymous allows them to open up about topics they might not feel comfortable raising on networks where their identities are visible.

However, something that these app developers must keep in mind, is that it should never land in the wrong hands nor should it be harmful or threatening to those who use it. While the app might offer anonymity, government authorities and administrative procedures should have access and control over such devices to ensure that they don’t go beyond protocol.

From Mr Arun Thazhath

Assistant manager based in Dubai

— Compiled by Donia Yassinson/Community Web Editor