Online Safety: Why We Need to Stop Saying “In Real Life’

In Real Life: Devaluing Online Identity.

This idea formed part of my presentation for the Wellbeing curriculum at the BETT show. I am going to say that the phrase “In Real Life”. Often used to distinguish between online activity and activity in our tangible immediate physical surroundings. Should be retired. The audio version below.

Please bear in mind whilst reading this that it is purely my opinion. I feel it is important to realise that the interactions of our students with the online world differ from our own. Indeed their very definition and identification of what parts of life to share online and offline are very different from our own. Gaming can be a brilliant way for autistic children to reduce stress.

It is clear that many of us as teachers and parents have embraced the digital realm. We have created identities and an image online. However, I think it’s fair to say that we had already created these identities in our jobs, education or general life before creating an online presence. Our growing up was done in a different time. J17 magazine, Titanic and Schindler’s list, Blur vs Oasis. The Beatles. These were our, well anyone in their 30s(edit now 40s!) cultural references.

We became who we are today, and made our mistakes generally out of the public eye. Only our close acquaintances would be aware of what we had achieved or what our interests were. In real life people just didn’t know.

Online safety SEN Poke valuing online interactions.

For our students, this growing up has happened in full view of classmates, friends of friends. And anyone else who cares to look them up. Their reality is different, their perception of what is real is different.

Valuing Online Interactions

By saying “in real life’ in discussions with students we are actually being slightly condescending, we may well alienate them by refusing to value interactions that our young people believe are incredibly important to them. However much we may find this concept difficult to grasp the world of Instagram, selfies, x-box live etc is real and here to stay.

quote about online interactions SEN online safety

This is of particular importance for our students with special educational needs, anxiety disorders, and Autism. They may have found a community they feel comfortable interacting with. The bonds and relationships with people online may well be as meaningful as those with colleagues and friends.

online safety quote interactions

Whatever a person feels, whatever ideas they have are real to them, their thoughts are real life. Wherever this physically happens.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

1 thought on “Online Safety: Why We Need to Stop Saying “In Real Life’”

  1. I think this is true. It is real life. Sadly many things get posted on social media that should stay private. I’m pleased that most of the embarrassing things I did in my younger years are simply vague memories. I think children (and adults) need to be educated about the effects of posting unsuitable material as, unfortunately, these “memories” can never be erased.
    I had to laugh the other morning. A person being interviewed was doing a fundraiser, challenging people to go technology/social media-free for a couple of days. In one breath he said to put away phones and tablets etc. In the next he said to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone! I’m not quite sure how one makes a phone call without looking at a phone. Surely telephone calls were one of the earliest forms of social media.
    Love your pics in this post.

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