How to Handle Online Mistakes

As with everything involving the Internet, it is quick and easy to do just about anything. This means that it is also quick and easy to make mistakes online. One click of the mouse too many, and you might accidentally send a message to the wrong person, catch a computer virus or say something that you would not otherwise say if you were face to face with that person. As computing power and Internet availability has grown in the past several decades, so have the many ways that we make mistakes grown along with the number of people who are making these mistakes on a daily basis.

Recent studies by Pew Research Center have found that nearly 7 out of every 10 students noted that they experienced dramatic social events online. This high number suggests that the Internet is no longer a playground for techies, but an intricate and personal part of most of our lives that has real world connections that give us the opportunity to share any of our experiences in great detail with anyone and everyone anywhere on the planet.

Without a doubt, mistakes are bound to be made. We can do our best to learn as much as we can, but there will always be some sort of blunder in which we will find ourselves in a whirlwind of stress over something that we posted, shared or saw online. Whether it was with a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet, all of these things connect us to the Internet and also with each other 24 hours a day, every day, without ceasing. Smartphones that are regularly connected to their charger can go for months without powering down and restarting. They are always open and available to receive any information we desire in the moment right now.

The thing about mistakes is that they’re not really mistakes if a lesson is learned from them. It’s not always the mistake itself, but how we handle the mistake that makes the difference. Here are some tips for handling mistakes that you or your children might make while using the latest and greatest technology has to offer.

  1. Find out what happened. You cannot learn from a mistake if you do not identify that a mistake has been made. One way or another, something was shared and ended up going to the wrong recipients, was taken the wrong way or should not have left the ground in the first place when it came to sharing. If something you wrote offended someone or shared too much personal information, you would not know about it unless there were some adverse reaction. It is completely natural to have some friction, but in order to learn what buttons to press we have to know which buttons are the wrong ones as well. If you have given your children their own smartphones or tablets, you have to understand how they are using them so that you can understand what is going on when they make mistakes as well. All this technology is new stuff and we are all learning as we go along.
  2. Know your role. It’s easy to deny that we did anything wrong. Most of the time when we make mistakes we don’t do it on purpose. Hopefully, most of us didn’t mean to offend anyone or send bank details to a scammer or download a virus. Whether or not we did it on purpose, it’s not just the thought that counts. To learn from a mistake we need to step back and look at what it is that we did that brought us to this situation. I wrote this, I took this picture, I clicked this button and sent it from this app, I touched a stove when it was hot, whatever it is, there was a process to it. It’s not about pointing fingers and finding blame, it’s about understanding what choices I made and figuring out which of those choices had bad outcomes.
  3. Move on. You spilled the milk. You recognized that it was your hand that made the mess. You cleaned it up and tell yourself not to make that mistake again. Making mistakes can be stressful and add extra work for your mind to clean up. But only by making mistakes can we learn how to do it better. No one is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Even though you may be more perfect than others, it is still important to recognize mistakes so that you can learn from them and do things even better than before. The learning process is never over.

It is a fact of life that mistakes will be made. With the Internet wirelessly accessible from the palms of our hands, it is important to keep an eye on how we present ourselves to the world and what kinds of information we share with others. This is especially important for parents who have given or are thinking about providing their children with their own smartphone or tablet. Using these devices wisely is a big responsibility and it is important that parents and children have a discussion about providing their children not only with the great privilege of using such a device, but also the responsibility they have to keep the family safe as well. Pre-set rules and written agreements between parent and child will help the children understand what is acceptable online behavior but will also give parents the opportunity to discuss and have follow up discussions in regards to making mistakes online.

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