I was pleased to read that the NSPCC were launching a new campaign to better inform parents of the dangers of Social Media, but was slightly disappointed with the results.
The videos ‘I Can See Your Willy’, and ‘Lucy and the Boy’ have been shown on TV spots, and are being shared around the internet, but I have several issues with them.
These videos are designed to scare parents, and they do. While the NSPCC links to their website, which explains in more detail the various Social Media websites, not every parent will take that step and find out. Those who watch these videos and categorically ban all social networking sites, take the risk that the kids will use them outwith the home, and beyond their protection.
I’m also slightly concerned about the fact that it is portrayed as ‘normal play’ to take a picture of your willy and send it to a girl. This is not normal, and it’s also not ok to suggest that the girl’s likely response would be to giggle and send on to friends.
There is danger on Social Media, but focussing on two very extreme stories instead of the everyday bullying and nasty comments that your children are far more likely to encounter, distorts the picture. These are the problems parents need to know about, not the unlikely chance of a paedophile stalking a messaging app in order to find a young girl. (Not that it doesn’t happen, but it isn’t my main concern when kids use Social Media).
When parents do go on the NSPCC website, to find out more, they are directed to a “Parent’s Guide” to social networking, in co-operation with Mumsnet. The first page shows the most popular networking sites, with the option to see more.
The channels are rated by Mumsnet users. As much as I love Mumsnet, the users really aren’t representative of the entire population, and aren’t experts on Social media. The ratings are based on the criteria: ease of signing up, reporting, finding of privacy settings, and safety advice.
Looking at that, Reddit is ‘safer’ than YouTube or Minecraft! In my article on YouTube, I discuss the various issues that I have with YouTube, including that kids might see inappropriate content, and how to prevent this. There are however ways of protecting your child on YouTube (and if you don’t have Safe Search on for YouTube, then your kid could be seeing all sorts of stuff on Google search, so time to locate that button!).
Reddit is an amazing source of information, but it is also a place filled with abusive, misogynistic and racist commentary, and I’d NEVER let my child near it. I removed KIK from the kids phones because the update included links to Reddit.
Playing Minecraft online IS an issue, I will admit to that, but there are very simple methods that can be put into place, such as only allowing your children to play online with actual real life friends.
I go through my son’s list of players regularly and check that they are not strangers. I’m also quite at a loss at how Minecraft achieved this rating, unless it was the killing of Zombies? Is inciting hatred of Zombies a thing now?
While I applaud NSPCC for highlighting that social networking sites need to improve on ease of reporting abuse and changing privacy settings, I don’t think it is one of the most important things to think about when choosing the right network for your kids to use. You only have to learn it once, and teach it to your kids.
The list of sites covered is extensive – perhaps too extensive. I work in Social Media, and spend most of my working day online and there are some sites on there that I don’t know, and wouldn’t expect kids to be attracted to. For parents who are looking for a quick overview of the most important sites, it may be overwhelming.
Like it or not, our kids are growing up with Social Media and they have to learn to use it responsibly. There is a good chance that they will need these skills in their later careers, so we can’t ban them from these sites.
Parents who follow a link on Facebook or Twitter to read this blog are likely to already know some of the great advantages of using Social Media, and be more open to allowing their kids to use it. Those who see this advert on TV may not have that experience, and simply be terrified by it. Exactly those parents are the ones who need the information that is not given to them.
We should be teaching our children to be aware of what they share online, but we shouldn’t limit the lesson to that. Schools and parents should be able to find expert advice on social networking online. I am concerned that the first place they look will be the pages of a trusted charity, which offers unclear and confusing advice.