Media & Press Media - Audio

[MEDIA] Talking about @Ofcom new Regulatory Powers with @PremierRadio

This morning it has been announced that Ofcom will have new regulatory powers with regards to online safety. See BBC, Guardian, Financial Times.

I’ll be on Premier Radio around 1.20pm speaking about this. <added afterwards>

My thoughts so far:

  • Cautiously optimistic (as the details are not yet clear) – as part of the mix of making digital a positive place to be.
  • Wary about the global nature of technology, so be interesting to see how much power one nation has to make this work, but there are already examples from Germany and Australia (largely involving fines/imprisonment). Social networks need to make money, so it hits the bottom line. It may not be that straightforward though, as a 0.5% tariff was suggested last year, but Trump complained that this was a US focused tax as most of the platforms are based in the USA.
  • We need care to ensure that we do not end up like China, blocking platforms, are concerns about ‘backdoor entry’ to access people’s data.
  • Makes sense that it’s Ofcom that does this as it already regulates other media formats (although e.g. BBC is UK-centric)
  • It responds to the government online harms document released last year (see conversation with UCB last April), ensures that platforms do not have an unregulated free hand or no responsibility (but how enforceable is this?)
  • Looking for more transparency/accountability for platforms, and the process of regulation. There is no magic bullet, so we still need to take our own responsibility for digital literacy, what we share, and articulating what we want from platforms, etc.
  • Want to know who is setting the rules, and that it’s based on good research data (e.g. LSE kids yesterday released report more risk, no evidence of more harm), and not just responding to media panic (as we’ve had with every new technology.
  • AI is already being used by tech companies to help increase their £, so good that it should (if not already) be put to use to increase the benefits of using platforms (government mentions violence, terrorism (something that HE institutions are concerned about policing), cyber-bullying, child abuse) – e.g. photo recognition software (though not positive for e.g. mastectomy photos).
  • They are seeking to ensure that content is removed quickly, and minimising the risks of it happening at all. If digital spaces are fast to take down, will become pointless to post up (though can quickly repost/repost).
  • There are still more details to come in the Spring so lots still to know. Are queries about VPN workarounds, etc.
  • There’s a question of a duty of care, there is more than £ at stake here.
  • Online has never been supposed to be a wild-west, free for all. Current legislation still stands, but as much legislation is national, this can be problematic.
  • Query whether ‘policing’ or ‘encouraging better practice’.



[DIGITAL] New Media Literacy Bulletin from @Ofcom

July’s media bulletin from @Ofcom was released today, highlighting four reports that Ofcom have produced – essential reading for understanding the UK’s digital environment:

Key finding from ‘Adults: Media Use and Attitudes 2019‘ report from Ofcom:

  • Mobile phones are increasingly integral to everyday life and half of adults now say, of all devices, they would miss their mobile phone the most.
  • One in three adults never use a computer to go online and one in ten only use a smartphone, an increase since 2017. • Video-on-demand and streamed content is becoming a central part of adults’ viewing landscape.
  • Social media users are less likely than in 2017 to see views they disagree with on social media.
  • Compared to 2017, internet users are more likely to have encountered hateful content online, however most didn’t do anything about it.
  • Although most internet users are aware of at least one of the ways in which their personal data might be collected online, less than four in ten are aware of all the ways we asked about.
  • There has been little change in critical awareness in the past few years, with many still lacking the critical skills needed to identify when they are being advertised to online.
  • One in ten internet users say they don’t think about the truthfulness of online content, although those who do are more likely than in 2017 to make checks to verify the information.
  • Thirteen percent of UK adults do not use the internet, unchanged since 2014; those aged 55 and over and in the DE socio-economic group remain less likely to be online.
  • One in seven adults of working age in DE households do not go online, and when they do, one in five only go online via a smartphone.

Extract from key findings of Adults’ Media Lives 2019 from Ofcom (with discussion guide used):

  • Online behaviour is increasingly segmented across the sample, with a clear difference between those who use the internet for what might be described as “basic” tasks, and those who are using it for a wider and more diverse range of activities. The latter group includes a growing subset of participants who now use social media platforms proactively as part of their work – either promoting their own businesses or the organisations they work for.
  • Changes in lifestage and domestic circumstances continue to impact greatly upon media usage and attitudes. Some younger participants described themselves as “growing up” and having less time to spend on (e.g.) social media. Some older participants are becoming more housebound, which means that they are more dependent on media technology both for entertainment (e.g. TV) and practical support (e.g. online shopping).
  • There were numerous examples of participants using information tools to become more savvy customers. These included conducting online research to find the best new deal for mobile, broadband and TV services, and using apps and/or email notifications to check their bills and keep tabs on their data usage.
  • More participants are now accessing a range of online learning opportunities. These included formal education, work-based learning and informal learning opportunities via YouTube videos, specialist educational sites, Facebook groups, etc. However, such use is concentrated among the internet savvy, and is not necessarily empowering those with less confidence or less appetite to learn to try something new.
  • Cameras are being used more for online communication and other applications. There has been a marked increase in claimed use of FaceTime and Skype, examples of participants enjoying the benefits of specialist apps which exploit their devices’ camera functionality, and increased interest in dashcams and bodycams.
  • There are growing concerns about media technology “spying” on users. Some of these related specifically to “always on” voice-controlled technology such as Amazon’s Alexa. However, several participants also spontaneously cited examples of being served ads related to the topics of their face-to-face conversations (not using technology at all).

See also

  • ‘Online Nation is a new annual report that looks at what people are doing online, how they are served by online content providers and platforms, and their attitudes to and experiences of using the internet.’: Summary // Full Report.
  • Internet users’ experience of harm online 2019, designed to quantify concerns about, reported experiences of and potential sources of online harm in three key categories:
    • Content that people view, read or listen to online and interactions with other users
    • Data/privacy
    • Hacking/security
Media & Press Media - Audio

[MEDIA] Talking about new @Ofcom Report with @BBC_Cumbria

Ofcom today have released their latest Children and parents: media use and attitudes report, and I’ve just been speaking to Emma Borthwick on BBC Radio Cumbria about that:

Key findings

  • TV sets and tablets dominate device use, but time spent watching TV on a TV set (broadcast or on demand) is decreasing
  • The viewing landscape is complex, with half of 5-15s watching OTT television services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV
  • YouTube is becoming the viewing platform of choice, with rising popularity particularly among 8-11s. Within this, vloggers are an increasingly important source of content and creativity
  • Online gaming is increasingly popular; three-quarters of 5-15s who play games do so online
  • Social media can bring a combination of social pressures and positive influences
  • TV and social media are important sources of news, but many have concerns over the accuracy and trustworthiness of news on social media
  • A majority of online 12-15s think critically about websites they visit, but only a third correctly understand search engine advertising
  • Children are still being exposed to unwanted experiences online, but almost all recall being taught how to use the internet safely
  • There has been an increase in parents of 12-15s and of 12-15s themselves saying that controlling screen time has become harder; however most 12-15s consider they have a struck a good balance between this and doing other things
  • Parental concerns about the internet are rising, although parents are, in some areas, becoming less likely to moderate their child’s activities

The press release focused on why children spend time online.

A few notes

My scribbles in relation to the press release:

  • 5-15 is a very large age range, expect a lot of difference within them, especially with 13 the legal age for having a social media account.
  • There are so many moral panics about screentime – it’s not uncontrollable, need to bring in family policies, importance of conversation, and look at screen use within the bigger picture of what else the child is doing.
  • We could say that TV is passive, and online is interactive, but we can clearly see that TV ‘appointment viewing’ is family time (and dual screening is possible – especially with wider family/friends).
  • It’s about screen CONTENT over time – there’s an option to mix and match – e.g. ‘you’ve seen that football shot, shall we now go and have a go at it’. It’s not about demonising the screen, but letting it find a healthy place – never about being entirely unboundaried – think about creating ‘healthy habits’.
  • Content children are looking at on YouTube = how to (top thing for YT for all users), celebrities (as always has been), and unboxing (unique – curious, but if you can’t afford one, can enjoy vicariously?).
  • Note that quality content is not being made for online platforms, and this is being encouraged.
  • ULTIMATELY it’s about BALANCING screen in with other aspects of life, and focus on CONTENT not quantity.
  • Parents need to know what their children are engaging with (content wise), and think about what is their child gaining from engagement online.
  • What works for one child (even within same age group) may not work for another, as children are individuals – some children can take it or leave it, some seem to be ‘addicted’ (a medical term, so care with use), in which case they need stronger boundaries – but preferably without demonising the screen = APPROPRIATE BOUNDARIES.
  • Within that = mix of ‘individualistic’ behaviour, and group activities – e.g. learning to share, choose something between them, but otherwise, why not enjoy engaging with something they really like.

Relevant Articles

A few recent articles that are relevant, especially in the question of whether screentime is ‘bad’.

Screen time no more harmful to teenage mental health than eating potatoes, study shows:

Activities including getting enough sleep and eating breakfast had much stronger impacts on mental health. Smoking cannabis was also 2.7 times more detrimental than screen time, while being bullied was 4.3 times more harmful.

Amy Orban:

“Of the three datasets we analysed for this study, we found over 600 million possible ways to analyse the data. We calculated a large sample of these and found that – if you wanted – you could come up with a large range of positive or negative associations between technology and wellbeing, or no effect at all.”

Digital detoxes are a solution looking for a problem

Most studies also rely on self-reported estimates of technology use, which often don’t reflect reality. Studies that rely on people self-reporting may get inaccurate information. Interestingly, when time in front of a screen is measured automatically by an application or device, depression and anxiety severity aren’t associated with total smartphone usage.

Research often tends to treat all technology use as equal. This assumption overlooks the fact that we have a different experience with each kind of technology we use. For example, mindlessly scrolling Instagram is very different to chatting on WhatsApp, or using a fitness tracker.


[REPORT] OfCom: Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report

Ofcom publishes regular research into people’s attitudes to various forms of media, including digital, and the latest has just been published. Here’s the brief overview at the beginning:

Internet use is becoming more mobile, with more people going online via their smartphones and accessing the internet in locations other than work and home. This connectivity is affecting our lives in many ways, with increasing take-up of communication services like WhatsApp, more use of streaming and on-demand services, more access to creative opportunities, and YouTube and social media increasingly being used as sources of news and information.

So it is perhaps not surprising that the majority continue to say that for them the benefits of the internet outweigh the risks. However, this connectivity can be overwhelming, with a third saying they would like to cut down on the time they spend online. It can also bring downsides, most notably nearly half of internet users say they have seen hateful content online in the past year.

Given these downsides, critical thinking skills are of particular interest. People need the skills to question and make judgements about their online environment. These skills are important as they enable them to keep themselves and others safe, to understand when they are being advertised to and how their data is being used, and to know when something could be biased or misleading. Our research shows that many people struggle with at least some of these elements.

It is also important to remember that although the internet seems ubiquitous, the online experience is not the same for everyone. Our research reveals significant differences, by age and by socioeconomic group, in the numbers who are online at all, and in the extent to which those who are online have the critical skills to understand and safely navigate their online world.

You can download the full file from Ofcom.


#DigitalParenting: New @Ofcom Report Out

Every year media regulator Ofcom releases an annual ‘Children and Parents: Media and Attitudes Report‘. One of the stories picked up by the media this year was that “Half of children aged 11 and 12 have a social media profile, despite most platforms’ minimum age being 13, a study from regulator Ofcom suggests.”

From my book Raising Children in a Digitial Age, p84-85:


“It seems clear that children are starting to go onto the internet at a younger and younger age. Many sites, including Facebook and Twitter, state in their terms of agreement that no under-thirteens are permitted on them. This is tied in particularly with US laws that forbid the collection of data from children under thirteen, but also reflects child development theories that suggest that children are not emotionally developed enough to engage in a healthy manner before this age. In the UK, Australia, and elsewhere there is no legal reason why thirteen years should be the minimum age, but children will be breaking site terms and conditions if they join.”

“The CHILDWISE “Digital Lives” Report 2010 noted that children encountered different degrees of parental involvement in joining Facebook. Some children used their parents’ page and then set up their own with parental support; another child set up an account after asking their parents’ permission, while yet another child set up an account before asking permission. Some did not tell their parents at all. The report highlighted that although many parents knew there was an age restriction on Facebook, they thought that eleven was a more appropriate age (this was echoed in a range of answers in the questionnaire). For those who do choose to allow their children to join before thirteen (and it’s worth thinking about what message this sends about abiding by rules and regulations), it’s worth setting the privacy settings high. Know your child’s password, check  whom they are friends with, and ensure (through discussion) that they are using Facebook appropriately.”

The Children’s Commissioner has since been in conversation with the social networks trying to work on this, but as I wrote on p87:

“Facebook has admitted that it is powerless to stop underage users signing up. This highlights a bigger problem online: children are pretending to be sixteen- or eighteen-year-olds to get around the restrictions, and therefore are exposed to unsuitable material. Research shows that this problem is increasing, and there are, as yet, no effective technological measures in place to deal with it.”

Companies are working on age verification processes, but they’re not there yet!

There’s a summary of the new report from Ofcom, and I liked this diagram from it:  

Read the full report on Ofcom.