Assessing the Risk

Social media connects individuals to massive quantities of information, and through social networks we are exposed to more personal things than ever in history (boyd, 2012). There are risks associated with participating in a digital environment, including becoming a target or participant in cyberbullying, predation, revenge porn, sexting or grooming. These risks can create a panic, or ‘technopanic’, that is supported by a natural survival instinct combined with poor comparative risk analysis skills (Thierer, 2012). One factor that contributes to technopanic is a generational difference, where parents and policymakers (older adults) dread changes to cultural or privacy-related norms and experience anxiety about the influence of social change on youth (Thierer, 2012). Adults tend to fondly remember their past; seeing events as more positive than they actually were, and are often fearful of change (Thierer, 2012). boyd (2012) points out that we learn how to be fearful based on experience, and thanks to the interconnectivity of social media, we hear fearful ideas from people we trust which adds to our own fear.

As an adult education instructor, I may have been lulled into a false sense of security in terms of risks to my students. After all, as adults they should be able to make rational, informed decisions about risks to privacy and personal safety on their own. However, many of my students are returning to school after a long absence, and have not had the opportunity to use technology in an educational setting. They are not necessarily aware of the safety and privacy concerns that exist when using certain tools, and may not have the confidence to report inappropriate behaviour or use of a technology. As their instructor, I need to ensure that all students, regardless of their previous educational or technological background, are guided in their decision making when participating in a digital community.



boyd, d. (2012). Webstock ’12: danah boyd – Culture of Fear + Attention Economy = ?!?! [Video file]. Retrieved from

Thierer, A. (2012, March 4). The Six Things that Drive “Technopanics”. Retrieved from

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