In these days of children being online earlier and earlier, there is an increasing worry about online stranger danger and sites like Get Safe Online and organisations such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and excellent resources like the ICO Youth website and Own Your Space spend quite a lot of time and effort attempting to educate the general public, and young people in particular about the issues associated with increased use of the Internet.
Well, it struck me today that there is already a very illustrative lesson of the dangers of using a mediated text-based communications environment where you easily build up trust but don’t really know who is on the other end – chapter seventeen of ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’.
When Harry is asking Tom Riddle how come he is standing ghost-like over the barely alive body of Ginny Weasley, he asks ‘How did Ginny get like this?’
‘ … I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley’s like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.’
‘My Diary. Little Ginny’s been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes …’
‘It’s very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl … but I was patient. I wrote back, I was sympathetic, I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one’s ever understood me like you Tom … I’m so glad I’ve got this diary to confide in … it’s like having a friend I can carry round in my pocket …’
So what is the muggle equivalent of a ‘friend you can carry round in your pocket’? Well, a collection of connected friends in your phone’s contact list of course.
So be careful who your friends are – who recieves your words as you write them on the page and they disappear like magic. The illusion of trust is easy to come by on the Internet. Just never confuse it with the real thing. It could lead to the take over of your mind by the world’s most feared wizard …
So remember the wise words of Arthur Weasley … “Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps it’s brain?”