New technologies – are you up to speed?

After attending a UK Safer Internet training session, Pamela Morrison realised that when it comes to the internet and young people, what you think you know is only the tip of the iceberg…

I have always considered myself as relatively “up to speed” with new technologies including social media forums. I have had social media platforms since my teens including the much loved Bebo and Friends Reunited, and now have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I see the value in them for sharing news with friends as well as acquiring knowledge from all over the globe. I regularly support the older members of my family to get online and encourage them to make use of such forums for keeping in touch with family members living abroad and for learning new information.

When I heard about the training session by the UK Safer Internet Centre, I thought that it would be good as a “refresher” and as the lead for youth participation I thought it may be helpful as a way of gaining some ideas on how to engage with young people through social media. I gathered it may be informative and interesting; however, probably aimed at older practitioners as I was sure I would know the bulk of the content that they would be sharing. After all, I am up to speed with social media and the technologies of today…or so I thought.

Well, it turned out, in fact, that I am not quite as up to speed as I had anticipated.

I presumed that the majority of social media users would be young people in their late teens who would ‘get online’ around 14 or 15 years old. The statistics, in fact, indicate that 74% of 12 and 13 year olds, and 43% of 10 and 11 year olds have some form of social media platform. This means that nearly half of 10 and 11 year olds are actively online. This is despite the age restrictions for most social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat being 13 years.

In thinking about this further, not only would it appear that a high percentage of children have social media accounts, they are also spending a considerable amount of time on them. With the use of smart phones and tablets, access to the internet is instantaneous and almost hard to escape from at times. It is estimated that over 20 hours are spent by 12-15 years olds online, including social media, in any one week. This is almost a full day spent online in a world that the adults in their life are unlikely to be invited to. When the majority of parents of 12 years olds would require to know where their children are at all times, and who they are with, it seems very contradictory that 1/7th of their week could be spent in the ‘online world’ with minimal adult supervision.

While it may be suggested that children have a better understanding on up-to-date technologies and social media platforms than some of their parents, it would not appear to be the case that they have an understanding of the terms and conditions they are signing up to when opening a social media account or downloading an application on their phone. I was really surprised to hear the amount of personal details that can be obtained, and even more so what is done with this information. For example, Instagram will gain details including your name, email address, school, home address, date of birth, phone number, and even where you go and who your friends are. When accepting their terms and conditions they are given permission not only to use this information but to share it with companies they are connected with. Not information parents are likely to want complete strangers to have about their child!

However, the information shared online is not the only disturbing aspect. The research by UK Safer Internet indicated that 45% of 13-17 year olds have seen nude or nearly nude photos of someone they know being shared around their school or local community, and 28% advised that they had seen sexual images online. Sending nude images was even seen by some young people as a way of ‘flirting’.

Many of the issues discussed during the UK Safer Internet training session were similar to the concerns raised within the Over the internet, under the radar report published by CYCJ and Barnardos earlier this year. This report was compiled following a two day event with practitioners looking at online behaviour and e-safety and highlights the lack of training and guidance in this area. It also highlighted that there is currently no overarching national strategy in relation to e-safety in Scotland. These findings, combined with the statistics highlighted by UK Safety Online, create a rather worrying picture. It is noted that 86% of social workers advise that they do not feel confident addressing online behaviour. This now comes as no shock to me, despite my initial confidence in my knowledge, and requires to be rectified. Further information as well as recommendations for moving forward can be found in the Over the internet, under the radar report.

 About our blogger

Pamela Morrison is a Practice Development Associate with CYCJ. Read more.

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