On the internet you can’t just take it back

With social media, many children are never really offline these days.

With social media, many children are never really offline these days.

But with school about to start for the new year, online communications will once again start in earnest for kids who took at least a little time away from being plugged in, as the balmy summer days beckoned people outdoors.

It’s not a new sentiment, but it is worth a reminder: think before you post, or upload, or share anything to that wonderful and terrible cyber universe we know as the internet, or any electronic device capable of connecting to it. That includes your phones, tablets and digital cameras.

Sadly, it is likely that we will see new additions this year to the roster of names that includes Nova Scotia’s Rehtaeh Parsons and B.C.’s Amanda Todd — teenagers who become the victims of online bullying.

Parsons’s and Todd’s cases are extreme, with both young women dead from suicide, gone far too soon, at least in part due to the cruelty they faced from peers and strangers on the internet.

There are many others whose names never hit the headlines, some of whom have shared Parsons’s and Todd’s fate, and others who have suffered and continue to suffer but have not taken that final, unalterable step.

Laws are only beginning to catch up to online behaviours. Finally, we are starting to criminalize, as we should, some of the grotesque behaviour by people hiding behind their keyboards as they deliberately victimize others. Some acts are obviously despicable, such as luring a young woman into sending explicit photos of herself, then using those photos to blackmail her, then terrorize her by spreading them around.

But for many in this wired-in generation sexting and sharing embarrassing photos online has become a normal part of life.

Piling on by sharing around or contributing to nasty rumours and demeaning statements about others is all too easy in the internet age.

It becomes a simple thing to go too far with the easy press of a button.

Which is why it’s a good idea for all of us to protect ourselves and others by thinking before we press that button. It may be easy, but the consequences are not uncomplicated.

Don’t send that topless photo unless you’re comfortable with your first boss finding it somewhere on the internet years from now.

Don’t click your support for that comment about how that guy in your class should just kill himself.

Don’t post that rumour about how the girl you’re jealous of slept with three guys while she was drunk at the party.

On the internet, you can’t take it back.