If you’ve been around the website for a while you’ll probably be aware that I tend to talk about how we should protect kids from potential dangers online. As I’ve said before, there’s no magical group of people looking after your kids. YouTube, Facebook, Musical.ly, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Twitter, Liveme and other social apps really don’t do as much as you think to protect children. Instead, they put the onus on you to report it, then there’s the inevitable lag while “someone” or “something” decides if your report is worth fixing.
The BBC have done an excellent investigation into this, and this video alone should be all you need to know about the dangers of smartphones for children. It features internet safety campaigner, Qudsiyah Shah. She poses as a 14 year-old girl and logs onto a number of apps which offer live broadcasting. A lot of the big apps and social media sites allow live feeds, but it also means that the dark side of the internet quickly appears..
I tell you what gets me though. This investigation has shown just how brazened men are at approaching a girl, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Just go ahead and check some of the comments to the actual BBC news story itself!
I guess the old saying still applies…
The good thing about the internet is that everyone can have their say, but the bad thing about the internet is that everyone can have their say.
Today the National Crime Agency have revealed that in just one week, authorities identified 345 vulnerable children and arrested 192 people. Some 30% involved streaming, blackmail and grooming. Police say that these abusers are attracted by the immediacy of these platforms. The “fix” that they can get from them, and they tend to dare or threaten children into performing sexual acts or pushing boundaries. Plus nearly a third of teenage girls have been sexually harassed online by children their own age.
Wind back the clock a little and imagine this happening without technology. Imagine having your child opening the window to their bedroom and inviting the whole street to look at them. Get a big floodlight on your house so that people can see from miles around. Imagine everyone outside feeling completely anonymous and free to give their totally honest opinion, without filtering, without fear of reprisals.
Imagine nobody doing anything about it, or perhaps one person saying, “this isn’t right” but perhaps just one person being led away.
App makers really don’t care. If one bad comment is removed, if one user is banned, then there’s be hundreds more ready to replace it. Meanwhile, parents feel the peer pressure. Children come home and say, “Well, my friend uses it all the time” and you feel pressured to agree. It’s not something that will fix itself, so take time to teach kids the dangers that a smartphone can bring into their bedroom. Do it now, before they find out themselves.