Local journalists interact with internet safety expert Elizabeth Milovidov | 11 September 2019
‘Journalists should exercise caution in online interaction’
With journalists sharing the same social media sphere as their audience or readers, can they safely engage and interact with other people online?
Dr Elizabeth Milovidov, a lawyer from California, an independent expert on digital parenting, children’s rights, internet and eSafety expert, advises journalists to exercise caution in that regard particularly since journalists are traditionally expected to remain unbiased in their reporting.
“The lines are getting blurred now and I think there is a way to respond in your professional capacity [as a journalist] and then it ends there. I think it’s just a case of being careful,” Dr Milovidov cautioned.
Dr Milovidov’s visit to Seychelles and Mauritius has been hosted by the US embassy for the two countries.
During her visit here she has led two workshops on internet safety and digital citizenship education in collaboration with the national Council for Children (NCC).
Three Seychellois journalists from Seychelles NATION, TéléSesel and Today in Seychelles were on Monday afternoon offered an opportunity to engage with Dr Milovidov on various thematic such as internet privacy, over-sharing on social media and the characteristics of the local social media landscape.
Dr Milovidov teaches in various universities in the fields of law and technology as well as children’s rights, works with various organisations such as the Council of Europe (CoE), Google and Facebook, and her various career paths have seen her interact with the likes of former US First Lady Michelle Obama.
“My whole goal – my only mission – is just to create awareness. To have people understand what is happening in our digital society,” Dr Milovidov told the journalists.
“I particularly like to stress the benefits and the opportunities because I think people have the tendencies to get scared and think ‘oh it’s so risky’ and yes there are risks, and yes I talk about them, but I try to make sure that people understand that the internet, technology and social media are fantastic tools. The world is going forward, from the Industrial Revolution into the technological age and we have to go there too, and bring our children with us,” said Dr Milovidov.
The trio of journalists, alongside staff from the US Embassy, and Dr Milovidov discussed the role of the media in encouraging responsible digital citizenship and how the media can engage their viewers, listeners or readers in this conversation.
“I think the media sometimes gets a bad reputation because of the negative stories that are shared on Facebook and the various trends on social media. I think that this is unfair because you are reporting, but I would also like to challenge you to report as well on some of the fabulous things that children and young people are doing online […] because I think that’s part of our responsibility to create awareness on the responsible use of technology,” Dr Milovidov stated.
She further urged everyone using social media to use critical thinking when confronted with posts, videos and other materials online.
“They have to think of; where did that come from and is it true? Did the journalists report on it? If not, it’s not that they are lazy or behind. It is because it’s not real,” Dr Milovidov stated whilst also adding that the media has an important role to play in educating the audience through various investigative pieces.