Forum: Teach people how to post truthfully and responsibly online

I read with concern two recent news items in The Straits Times, which highlighted an increasing malaise in our society - the careless use of social media.

In the first case, an Instagram user apologised for jumping to conclusions and posting what he perceived as police officers bullying an elderly woman (Glad truth is out, says policeman accused of bullying elderly woman, May 29).

In the second, the Ministry of Health had to rebut allegations made by a Covid-19 patient on Facebook, who claimed that she could have been infected at Changi Airport (Imported case from Nepal not linked to airport cluster: MOH, May 29).

The surge of social media platforms and their free and easy availability have made millions of people jump on the bandwagon of posting their views publicly.

We have become "trigger-happy" - shooting off our views and sharing information without any thought about its veracity and the implications.

These posts travel across the world at a speed and scale that are both amazing and alarming.

While technology has advanced manifold, the social and emotional skills needed to use this powerful tool of communication are lagging.

Are parents educating children on this, and is society equipping itself and future generations to handle this change?

For a start, educational institutions could include in their curriculum lessons on how to use social media.

The traditional lessons on letter-writing skills, still being taught in schools, need to evolve and include the art of sharing views on a public platform, posting in moderation, avoiding irresponsible comments and making information ethical and engaging.

Progressively, students can be taught about the social, emotional and legal implications of misleading public posts.

Community centres and organisations that conduct computer classes can have a compulsory module on posting responsibly and reacting calmly to what viewers see online.

We cannot have the authorities repeatedly waste their precious time and resources in dealing with misinformation and unethical social media posts.

It is time for us to learn how to express views truthfully and responsibly so that people do not lose confidence in this useful, and potent, medium of communication.

Vandana Aggarwal

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