Netflix released the highly anticipated documentary The Social Dilemma on September 9th. Since then, many have weighed in on all the information tech experts from the biggest companies like Google and Facebook shared. How safe are we? The documentary specifically explains how users are fed information and extensively monitored. Girls L.E.A.P asked Meri Roboci, an innovative educator who instructs students in STEM, to add to the conversation and analyze a few facts that social media users need to know.
“The Social Dilemma is a must-see documentary especially for the younger generation, known as Gen-Z and their parents. During my work with this age group, I have come to notice what was also highlighted in the documentary: the very disturbing addiction pre-teens and teens have on social medial and not being able to separate the truth from fake! This generation is born and raised with a smartphone in their hand and for most of them, the virtual world is their reality. A year ago, when I noticed this and was doing my master’s on information security, I worked on developing a course ” Kids in Cybersecurity”, focused on increasing kids’ vigilance online. We were giving them real risky situations to analyze and decide on how they would behave in such cases. Kids nowadays are super smart, and they would always give the right answer, however, they would seldom do that in a real situation! Why? Because the appeal is too strong, because all their friends do that, because if they do not, they would be the “weirdos” of their school and the reasons continue. All these reasons are a result of the online filters that have weakened their ability to see the real faces of the models they follow online!
What can we do about that? To start with, I would totally agree with the message spread in the documentary about not allowing pre-teens to be on social media, or if we do give permission, their activity online should be 100% supervised by a trusted adult of theirs. Secondly, which is probably even the most important step needed to be taken from every family and school, is educating kids and teens more on how the online world works and how they should always have a question mark upon their heads when receiving information from the internet. Last but not least, try creating more opportunities for kids to play real games, make real friends, read real books, and be closer to nature and outdoor activities. This a serious issue, and messages like the ones given on The Social Dilemma documentary must be widely spread before this Gen-Z forgets that there is another reality outside that social media bubble they have been raised in.