My View, Catherine Parkinson: We must beware of social media danger

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I am no expert on social media, but can see its attraction.

Social media has been around for some time and has its origins with the launch of CompuServe in 1969 and then the World Wide Web in 1991. Early social media communities encouraged interaction through chat rooms and sharing personal information and ideas via personal webpages.

Then came compilations of lists of friends searching for others with similar interests through sites such as SixDegrees.com, Friendster and MySpace and LinkedIn. Then Facebook, launched in 2004 as a networking site at Harvard University.

Since, there have been developments in social media platforms and by 2011 social media was deemed accessible from virtually anywhere. Last year over one billion people accessed Facebook in one day.

So why the potted history? Well, some of us are old enough to remember what it was like before social media came along and how long it could take for new ideas and developments to really take hold and have a significant impact. Social media has achieved this in a relatively short period of time.

For many it has become a part of everyday life. Young people have been brought up with it and would doubtless feel a sense of loss if they could no longer use it. The positives are there for all to see.

But there are concerns over privacy and dangers of too much personal information being in the public domain. Users may be unaware it is possible for others to copy their photos and then use them for ulterior motives. Employees are vulnerable to what they put on social media sites.

Employers, and potential employers, can access these sites. Employees have lost or been refused jobs due to what has been seen on-line. Other problems are caused by people logging on as a user (because they have access to the password) and placing unauthorised comments on sites.

Cyber bullying, or trolling, has become an issue with high-profile cases of TV presenters targeted due to their looks. There are effectively no limitations to what can be posted on social media and complaints about content can often take time to be dealt with.

I have read that with the large amount of time spent on social networking sites by some people, researchers have debated whether internet addiction could be classed as a clinical disorders.

Those of us who work in education are aware of the potential pitfalls and dangers of social media or more importantly the often naive use of it by students and staff.

The point is though that social media is here to stay, and educators need to actively promote responsible use of it for the benefit of all in society.

* Catherine Parkinson, Deputy Principal, Doncaster College