Almost one in five children who use social networking sites suffered a negative experience last year, research by children’s charity the NSPCC shows. This included bullying, unwanted sexual messages, cyber stalking and feeling pressure to look a certain way.
The NSPCC also said a “large number” of users of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were under the minimum age of 13. This does happen in the primary classroom. In fact I overheard a conversation that one or two of a Year 6 class talking about Facebook, which rather scared me. I then later looked to see if what they were saying had any truth to it (probably not the best thing to do), only to find that half of Years 5 and 6 in that school were on it, with a lot of details exposed to anyone. Letters were sent home to parents as a result.
A full report of the survey of 1,024 11 to 16-year-olds from across the UK will be published in November.
The survey also showed that the most common bad experiences among children were bullying and trolling. This involves insulting or intimidating others, usually under a pseudonym, to provoke a reaction.
This report couldn’t come soon enough it would seem as earlier this month, 14 year old Hannah Smith was found hanged after being sent abusive messages on Latvian based website ask.fm. Following her death, ask.fm ordered a law firm to carry out a “full and independent audit” of the site and its safety features.
Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron called on people to boycott websites that fail to tackle online abuse.
It is really saddening for me to see this kind of abuse escalating so much, especially within our children. Tim Berners-Lee who invented the internet couldn’t possibly have seen this coming when he made his invention. It makes you wonder why people even do this in the first place. What drives a troll to be abusive to someone else? You wouldn’t do it to someone to their face so why do it on the internet?
It does make it rather difficult for us who do use these networking sites for the right reasons to want to use them. It wouldn’t surprise me if people are closing their Facebook accounts or Twitter feeds because of recent events. As teachers we need to educate our children as to the dangers of the internet and how to be safe there, which is something that is not really taught in schools at this moment in time, certainly not in primary in my experience.