The widespread use of social networking sites (SNSs) by children and young people has significantly reconfigured how they communicate, with whom and with what consequences. Drawing on cross-national interviews and informed by the tradition of research on media literacy, I will discuss the idea of social media literacy. The empirical material reveals a social developmental pathway by which children learn to interpret and engage with the technological and textual affordances and social dimensions of SNSs in determining what is risky and why. Their changing orientation to social networking online (and offline) appears to be shaped by their changing peer and parental relations, and has implications for their perceptions of risk of harm.
“Many clergy and churches are now taking to the internet and social media to promote their churches or ministries, but few have thought through some of the difficult pastoral and theological issues that may arise.’Virtual vicar’ Revd Pam Smith guides both new and experienced practitioners through setting up online ministries and considers some of the issues that may arise, such as:Are relationships online as valid as those offline? Is it possible to participate in a ‘virtual’ communion service? How do you deal with ‘trolls’ in a Christian way? What is it appropriate for a clergyperson to say on social media?”
I reviewed this book before publication, and here’s what I wrote:
‘Pam Smith has an enthusiasm for sharing the gospel of God rather than worshipping technology. She challenges those who fear online ministry both theologically, and with practical advice, identifying opportunities and areas that need respectful thought. In order to meet people where they are online – Pam emphasizes the need for resilience in our own Christian development, and highlights quality interactions over quantity. I recommend it to all who are interested in or involved in online mission and ministry.’ –Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, The CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology
Officially out on 19th Feb, but already available in ‘certain online stores‘.
Digital Fingerprint is a Social Media Consultancy, working particularly with those in the Higher Education, Christian and voluntary sectors, and particularly focused upon attitude change, identifying the possibilities of the digital:
- Do you want to know which digital tools are right for you?
- Do you want to gain confidence in working online?
- Are you a parent wanting to know more about the digital environment for your children? Check out Raising Children in a Digital Age
As featured on The One Show (BBC1), Steve Wright in the Afternoon (BBC Radio 2), BBC News, The Telegraph, Church Times, Best, Financial Times, Premier Radio, UCB and more…
A recent piece, published for The Conversation UK, under Creative Commons licence (republished on Durham University):
Should McCann Twitter abuser have been doorstepped on TV?
By Bex Lewis, Durham University
Brenda Leyland, a 63-year old woman from Leicestershire who had been accused of publishing a stream of internet abuse about the family of missing child Madeleine McCann, has been found dead in a hotel room.
Her death raises important questions about the wrongs and rights of how we handle people who express unpalatable views online.
Leyland had been exposed in a Sky News report as the person behind the Twitter account @sweepyface, which had been used to post offensive messages about the McCanns. These included the accusation that Madeleine’s parents were responsible for her disappearance. When confronted by a Sky News reporter about whether she should have posted such messages, Leyland said: “I’m entitled to do that.”
Days before Leyland’s death, BBC Radio 4 ran a story about how the police were investigating abusive social media messages sent to, or published about, the McCanns. Madeleine’s father Gerry McCann featured, suggesting that these messages are fuelled by press reporting. He added that he thinks more people should be charged for internet abuse and revealed that his family tends to avoid the internet because of the nature of threats and insults they receive.
For obvious reasons, the McCanns had encouraged a high-profile press campaign after Madeleine’s disappearance. But without answers about what happened to Madeleine, conspiracy theories have abounded. Brenda Leyland was one of many to discuss the McCann case online. As Rev Pam Smith, one of my Facebook connections said, are we really saying that people are not “entitled” to share adverse views online?
Leyland said she “hoped she hadn’t broken any laws”, but the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which covers Twitter, notes that it is an offence to send messages to another person which are “indecent or grossly offensive”, threatening or false. If the message is intended to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient, they breach the law.
We have to consider whether Sky has a case to answer in this particular situation too though. The broadcaster’s correspondent approached Mrs Leyland on her own doorstep in a live broadcast. She evidently had no idea that she was going to be confronted or that the footage would be broadcast to the world.
Whether or not we like what Leyland had been doing, she was clearly just one of several people who had been expressing their opinions online. She was certainly not the worst. Is doorstepping people, outing them on TV, and ensuring that their face circulates the internet, really the answer? Had Sky done any research into this woman before they put her face in the public domain? Did they know anything about her mental state? Did she just have the misfortune to be the first person who could be made an example of?
Her case carried echoes of the recent media treatment of Cliff Richard. The BBC was heavily rapped for broadcasting live from his home as police raided it. The police of course need to investigate such stories but it is a worrying sign of our culture that trial by media and even trial by gossip appear to have become acceptable.
Media ethics are typically concerned with truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, public accountability and limitation of harm. After the Leveson inquiry, there has been increased emphasis on press responsibility. But in a time of rapid media change and fast-moving news, broadcasters must ensure they too meet their ethical responsibilities.
Bex Lewis does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Ruth Gledhill asked me for a quote earlier today re “The former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has warned of of the potential of social media to inflame wars to global proportions and said: “God himself weeps at the evils being committed in His name.” Here’s some of my response:
Dr Bex Lewis, research fellow with Codec, which explores the interfaces between the Bible, the digital world and contemporary culture at Durham University and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age, criticised Lord Sacks for a “technological determinist” position – that the technology is responsible for forcing a person to act in a particular way, rather than giving new opportunities which a person make choices around.
She said: “Social media can be considered like a brick – you can build houses with it, or you can throw it through people’s windows. People are doing both with it, as people have always done with every communications medium. Yes, social media allows messages to move faster globally, and those who speak loudest will often be listened to. Social media, however, gives the opportunity to speak back, particularly if people gather together.”
Read full article.
Today’s programme was pre-advertised as:
Should there be a ‘fat tax’ on sugary drinks and fast food?
This week the government announced a new healthy food school meal initiative across England. This is part of the solution to tackle the growing obesity issue facing the UK. A quarter of British adults are now thought to be obese. The NHS spends around £5billion a year on treating conditions linked to obese patients. Prof Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, told a committee of MPs that “we may need to introduce a sugar tax”.
Would you support a new tax? Should we pay more for unhealthy foods? Or, would this be a case of a nanny state telling us what we should eat?
You can have your say by voting on the question now online or live via SMS during Sunday’s programme: Should there be a ‘fat tax’ on sugary drinks and fast food?
I sent a tweet several days ago – and I think Graham’s were too. As I continue to work with Beyond Chocolate, and think about all the reasons that we eat other than because we’re hungry, an interesting watch. In many ways a ‘fat tax’ doesn’t seem to make much sense, but if that money encouraged food industries to use ‘proper ingredients’ rather than cheap ingredients such as palm oil it might make some sense… we can live in hope – my tweet was slightly ironic I think!
Thanks Vicky for picking up the emotional eating line – was worried amongst the group emphasising education, which seems straightforward, but research has shown that people’s ideas of what is ‘healthy’ change over time, or people return to ‘calories in = calories out’ and I’m not sure it’s that simple either… bits to chew over!