Cyberspace has opened up new vistas for the ‘digital generation’ with seamless access to knowledge (good & bad) and new frontiers which could have never been imagined until a few years ago. Today, individuals are presented with the power to choose the kind of information that they wish to consume and the way they want to consume it. This unprecedented power called the Internet is becoming more and more accessible to one and all.
With all its positives and a few potential pitfalls, the nuances of cyberspace are introducing new questions but more amorphous answers for all of ‘netizens’, especially for young adults and children.
The virtual world has also opened up before us, the opportunity to participate in unsupervised online environments, giving our lives a whole, new dimension. Now the stakes are higher and the responsibilities greater. Considering easy availability and accessibility to digital tools, we must understand and uphold our obligation for safe, moral, ethical and legal behavior. Doing and behaving when no one is looking at what you would do if someone was looking over your shoulder, is essential to responsible digital citizenship.
Cyberethics refers to a set of guidelines and a code of moral principles which ensure that people make smart and safe online decisions. Just as we are taught life lessons that help us become responsible people, ethical behavior on the internet aligns with all the right behavior in everyday life.
However, there are people out there who try to hide behind this virtual screen which somehow offers a false sense of obscurity. They seem to believe that it does not matter how they behave in the online realm because no one knows who they are or how to locate them in reality. Masked by anonymity, they often misuse this freedom to take on any identity they wish to and pretend to be someone they are not.
The fact of the matter is - Anonymity on the internet is a myth! Browsers, computers, and internet service providers keep logs of all online activities and these can be used to spot and stop illegal or inappropriate behavior.
Prior to the advent of the Internet, youthful indiscretion might only have existed in the memories of people who were present there, or in the form of blurred, easily destroyable Polaroid photographs. Now, in the digital era, these things can be posted online and broadcast to the world and even if they are taken down, cached versions of web pages can still be viewed, copied, morphed and re-posted. Images and text messages can be forwarded, screenshots can be captured within seconds and even corrupted or deleted files can be easily retrieved.
The simple realization that often goes unnoticed is that anything posted online can stay there forever and that every post becomes part of one’s online reputation or digital footprint. The understanding of how this online footprint that you’re leaving behind could come back to haunt you in the future, having a negative impact on your life, is equally important. Thus, a thumb rule you must follow is to avoid posting anything online that you wouldn’t want your teachers, family, friends, university professors, and future employers to see.
A holistic education on cyber ethics issues early in life and teaching good cyber etiquette prepares children to be responsible citizens, as most of the strategies used for avoiding pitfalls in the virtual world are equally applicable to the real world.
With digitalization, it is possible to find, use and distribute digital content with such ease that we often use material without giving much thought as to who owns it or where it comes from. This “free-for-all, cut copy paste” culture is resulting in plagiarism, piracy, copyright infringement, and a serious disservice to the creativity and hard work of others.
As young, digital creators, you should understand the importance of copyright and creative credits for positively shaping a creative online culture. Copying the material you find online and pasting it in your project, without citing the source, tantamount to plagiarism.
Respecting intellectual property rights, the fair use of work covered by copyrights, the impact of piracy on content creators and consequences of plagiarism should always be kept in mind. At the same time, you must learn how to protect your own original creations and receive acknowledgment for the same.
Oswaal Books suggest to explore this new found freedom ethically and use the Internet to our advantage, without getting ‘trapped in the net’.