The Dark Side

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Remember that the internet is a breeding ground for toxic behavior, and makes it easy to be misinterpreted or unkind — do not let it make you become insensitive to others, and don’t put up with those who are. Some people try to take advantage of and exploit others through the use of the internet. Be vigilant against attempts at cyberbullying, human trafficking, and exploitation.

  • Exploitation is the act of selfishly taking advantage of someone or a group of people in order to profit from them or benefit oneself.
  • Online enticement is a broad category of online exploitation that includes sextortion. Online enticement involves an individual communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction.
  • Human trafficking is a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.

Read below to learn some important tips and tools to avoid the dark side of the internet and stay safe when engaging online.

Social Media
  • Focus on operating in and creating safe spaces.
  • Keep your contact list small and to those you know personally as much as possible.
  • The more you get wrapped up in follower counts, the more likely you are to do something sexy, scandalous, or foolish — do not risk your health, body parts, or personal safety by doing something risky for the likes.
Screen Time
  • Any site, app, or game designed for children, preteens, or teens is going to attract predators; keep an eye out for people asking too many personal questions and/or for pictures.
  • Review and update your privacy and security settings on websites and social media regularly to protect your personal data and information.
  • Whether it’s a DM (direct message), a strange email, or a download from a new site — trust your gut. If something feels weird, it probably is.
  • Good sportspersonship rules extend to the virtual world as well: no hate speech, phobic remarks, misogyny, rape “jokes,” or threats.
  • The gamerverse can be particularly toxic for female-identified people — if you are one, be aware and block and report accordingly. If you are not female-identified, shut it down when you see it, and work to not make it worse.
  • Online harassment and threats can be especially vicious due to the anonymity that screens can provide trolls. It is important to seek support from people who understand and/or care: especially if you are part of an already vulnerable community or have other difficult things going on in your life.