This morning, “The Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group is hosting the discussion in parliament on the dangers posed to young people. The meeting has been designed to find solutions for safeguarding children and young people and to challenge the Government and the industry to treat this as a public health crisis.”
Yesterday I did a brief pre-record on the discussion (with little time for preparation, so this is coming from head and heart!). I was concerned about the almost-wholly negative content in the press release for the event. We need to be clear that life online is not risk-free (and more than life offline is), and need to think carefully about how particular narratives enforce an idea, or create/contribute to it, and where we think the solutions are – in which conversation and education rank highly on my list – rather than the propaganda of fear!
Listen to interview on Premier Radio.
PRESS RELEASE entitled ‘Social media damages young people’
Abuse of online technology is creating a public health crisis in our young
children driven to mental breakdown and even to suicide by harassment on Social Media.
Thursday 20th October 2016 from 1.00pm to 3.30pm, The Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, Westminster SW1A 2LW. Sponsored by David Burrowes MP and Helen Goodman MP, Chaired by The Baroness Howe and The Baroness Hollins.
Organised by: The Working Party on the Family, Lords & Commons Family & Child Protection Group
The aim: To present evidence of how the online world impacts children and young people; to highlight the current situation regarding what is available and how it is regulated and policed; to put forward solutions for safeguarding our children and young people; to challenge the Government and industry to treat this as a public health crisis and implement recommendations as a matter of urgency.
- Professor Kevin Browne, Professor of Forensic Psychology and Child Health, University of Nottingham’s Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology.
- Tessy Ojo, CEO, The Diana Award
- Tink Palmer, CEO, Marie Collins Foundation and Visiting Professor of Child Protection, University Campus Suffolk
- Ian Maxted, Safer Cyber Coordinator, Digital Investigations & Intelligence, Specialist Crime, Gloucestershire Constabulary
- Leigh Porter, Principal Architect, Yaana Limited (helping companies with legal compliance and cybersecurity)
- John Carr, Secretary of the Children’s Charities Coalition on Internet Safety
Important new UK Study on the effects of pornography on sexual development and behaviour – Prof Kevin Browne of the University of Nottingham will present his findings: ‘the prevalence of ‘sexting’ suggests many young people view it as a normal part of growing up or no more than flirting.’ He found that only 2% of emerging adults (18 to 25) stated they had never viewed porn and 42% had viewed porn under the age of 13 years, 50% between 13 and 17 years and the remaining 6% from 18 years. Four out of five respondents claimed to have engaged in sexting, 51% of them when they were under the age of 18 years.’
The UK has led the world with the introduction of ISP level filters but about 10% of households are still not covered, and the take up by parents is low. Good websites like Internet Matters provide advice for parents but ISP filters and education are not enough.
Consequences of easy access to internet violence, hardcore pornography, social media, chat rooms
A tripling in numbers of children reported to police for indecent images offences in the last three years. (https://www.nspcc.org.uk/fighting-for-childhood/news-opinion/1-6-reported-police-child-sexual-images-under-18)
- More than 2,000 children were among those reported to police for indecent images offences over the last 3 years, according to recent figures.
- ‘Girls as young as 7 are being targeted online and posting explicit images of themselves – in some cases the material was secretly recorded on internet calling services and then posted by a third party.’(IWF Research uk).
The Smart phone Generation
A generation of children and young people are being betrayed – Internet Service Providers, platforms such as Google and social media must be challenged to be responsible and provide the best and most effective protection.
- 81% 13 – 18 yr olds have smartphones ( You Gov’s “SMIX Kids” Report Feb 2014)
- Children as young as nine now routinely have smartphones (DfE Research 2016)
- At least 37% 3-4 yr olds go online ; 28% 3-4 yr olds had own tablet. (Ofcom 014)
- 16-24 age group – 99% claim to use social media, it accounted for 18% of all time spent using media and communications ; On average, 16-24s spent 2 hours 26 minutes per day using social media in 2016 ; 61% use smartphone to access social media (Ofcom: Communications Market 2016).
Parents are trailing behind
- 23 % of parents say they have trouble controlling their children’s screen use – Report by Action for Children Jan 16
- 83% of parents have never received information about sexting and 84% of parents have never looked for it.
- 50% want to learn more
- 42% of parents have spoken to their children about sexting at least once but
- 19 % do not intend to ever have a conversation about it. NSPCC Report 2016.
Bullying on-line and self-harm
‘Figures just released from the Office for National Statistics show teenage suicides are at a 17-year high: 186 took their own lives in 2015, an increase of 48 per cent in the past three years. Indeed, the ‘Child self -harming – Somerset Community Foundation’s Vital Signs Report’ – found the number of children admitted to hospital in Somerset with self-harm related injuries is 50% higher than the national average.
Asad Khan, an 11-year-old boy found hanged in his bedroom in Bradford after allegedly being bullied
October 2016 – 17 yr old, Felix Alexander committed suicide in front of a train after bullying online
15 Feb 2011 – Natasha MacBryde, 15, committed suicide when she was hit by a train on Valentine’s Day morning after bullying online.
“One girl’s classmates took against her and set their phones to send her texts every few seconds just before class started, saying: ‘You’re ugly, kill yourself, we hate you.’ Imagine her utter distress,” says Claude Knights, chief executive of Kidscape, the anti-bullying charity.
“You could not do that without technology, that intensity and the paranoia it leads to… Technology, even on the cheapest phones, has fuelled opportunistic bullying.”
(report in Daily Telegraph 9 Oct 16)
I’ve sent an email to the convenors of the committee, drawing attention to my book, of which they weren’t aware. I was sent an invitation to attend the event last night, but was unable to go, but I hope to be part of future conversations, even if just to pre-inform the event, and bring a different side to the story.
Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.