Regular readers will know that my favourite newspaper is The Guardian, and I commend them for this recent piece they did in the Guardian Weekend.
Let’s look at some highlights. My comments, and anything I think is noteworthy, are in bold. Please take the time to read the whole thing on the Guardian website.
‘Thirty years ago, children were taught never to accept sweets from strangers, but the equivalent modern message, about staying safe online, doesn’t seem to be getting through. For all its positives, the online world is full of potential hazards to young people. Sexting, bullying and sexual approaches from strangers are online dangers modern teenagers routinely face. And adults’ knowledge of what young people are doing online is often vague and complacent.‘
Well, I hate to say this, but that’s what I’ve been saying for nearly two years now. But heigh-ho, at least everyone else seems to be catching up with me.
Here’s what some of the young people say:
‘If anyone has a child with a moderate level of online popularity who has joined ask.fm, you can almost guarantee that they will have received an abusive message. Questions are posted publicly on your profile page, and you can reply to them, but the senders are anonymous. Most of my friends who have had Ask have received a question saying, “Why are you so ugly?” or, “When are you going to kill yourself?”
Ask crops up yet again. It’s ‘pretty common’. ‘If people get a lot of abuse, for some reason they seem to get even more’. It pains me to repeat this, but didn’t good old Philip tell you this ages ago?
‘I know people who have been hospitalised by Ask. People already suffering from depression go on Ask and get questions saying, “Why don’t you kill yourself, cut yourself?” It’s affected them and they have actually ended up cutting themselves. In some cases, their parents found out; in others, they didn’t. With one person, even when they went to hospital, their parents didn’t know what had happened until a few weeks later.’ Those good old attentive parents again.
‘When I started, my mum wasn’t aware of what I was doing.’ Are mums ever aware? ‘But when I wanted to go to a gathering of YouTube people, I thought it would be easier to explain everything than tell Mum I was going to meet people she would feel were “some random strangers”. She was a little concerned, but I explained I knew the area well and that if anything were to go wrong, I’d be able to leave; and she let me go. Now she watches my videos. She thinks it’s quite cool. I try not to release too much information about myself and where I live, so I’m sure she feels safe about it. If there was anything she felt was inappropriate, I would take it down.’
Katie’s contribution is perhaps the most worrying. Here are just a few extracts:
‘My stepsister once sent a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend, and when they broke up, he printed it off and made a poster saying, “Look at me, I’m a slag” that had her phone number and her BBM pin [her “address” on the Blackberry service] on it. The posters were put up round his school. She started getting messages five minutes later. She ended up changing her number and getting Mum to buy her a new phone – she told her it was broken. The boy probably got told off for putting the posters up, but no one ever contacted my stepsister. Our mum still doesn’t know.’
‘A whole school can turn on one person.‘
‘It’s not going to sound very nice, but if a boy’s big down there, they get left alone. If it’s small, the girls will send the picture around and take the mick.’ Throughout this nonsense, there is a permeated belief that all this, for some reason, only has an effect on girls, and it’s only boys who send the photos round. But obviously that’s not true.
‘Older men, people I’ve never spoken to, are always adding me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’ve had a message saying, “I hope you’re a real ginger – I want to taste you.” It has become normality.’ God help us!
‘Some children as young as 11 had already been sexting. Kids at that age are really naive. If they haven’t got anyone telling them about the consequences, they won’t know.’ Well, the parents certainly won’t, that’s for sure.
‘You just talk to anyone – a cartoon character, say – you don’t know who they are. On Habbo my friend got messages from someone who said he was 12, but he must have been about 40. He was asking her to do certain things. That made her lose trust in people and become more secretive. I don’t think she told the police, but I think she told her parents, and went to counselling.’
‘There are a lot of weird websites – there’s one called Tagged. They say it’s a way to make friends aged between 13 and 18. Obviously people aren’t using it to make friends – they’re using it for things they probably shouldn’t be: adults targeting young people sexually. A lot of my friends use a chat app called Kik to send photos and messages to friends and family. Most people use it correctly, but some people use it to get in touch with people they don’t know, and can be forceful about trying to get them to send explicit photos. I’ve got Kik but I don’t post my news on it because I don’t want people I don’t know talking to me.’
‘When I was 14, I came into school one day and my friend said: “Welcome to Facebook.” Someone had made a fake account in my name. There were things on my profile that were Photoshopped, like my face on a nude picture of someone else. And abusive comments towards others, about people’s mums for example – sexual remarks. It was very disturbing. Someone was using my account to bully others in my name.
I felt so ashamed by what was on there. A lot of people stopped talking to me. I felt like an outcast. Finally my friends made me go to my teachers and parents to talk about it. They didn’t know you could do such a thing or what you could do about it. Eventually Facebook got the account deactivated, and found the IP address and who had done it. I was told it was someone I knew, someone in my year group. Their parents were told, but I never found out who it was. That anonymity for the bully, it’s like there’s a screen protecting them from everything. It gives them power.’
‘It’s happening with younger and younger people, because they are growing up with this technology. I’ve been in touch with children as young as 11 being cyberbullied.
A lot of people think, “How can I tell my parents?” Parents should make sure their child knows they can come to them for anything. They shouldn’t just tell the child to turn the screen off or deactivate the account. They should guide them into confidently confronting the attack.’
‘I’m careful online. I don’t friend anybody that I don’t know. My parents are always telling me not to talk to strangers online. They have also taught me about cyber safety for the last two years at primary school. We know more about technology at my age. We’re used to it. We’re born with it.’
I find Tom’s contribution quite sad on many levels.
‘The sort of stuff we do, boys my age, is go on pornographic websites. Most are massive collections of all types of free content. I could watch from two minutes to an hour a day. Does it affect the way I look at women? Massively.‘
‘I haven’t sent any, but I have received topless pictures from girls I know, generally from my class at school. It’s unlikely the girls’ parents know. They’re probably better at hiding it than I am. Half the time I just look at the pictures and don’t reply. When you don’t reply, they can see that you’ve opened it, which normally makes them send a couple more messages, saying, “Reply to me, goddammit.”‘ I find this interesting. Yet again, the media tends to rant on about it being the boys who are to blame, but here we see that girls send out the pictures. Haven’t I been trying to say this for nearly a year now? Yet the new laws suggest that, in this case, it would be Tom who would be classified as a child-pornographer, not the girls who sent him the pictures. And what is the poor kid meant to do? Tell on them? Come off it – nobody likes a tattle-tale.
‘What would I advise a parent? Never, ever buy your son or daughter anything electrical. Fifty years ago, people my age were more innocent, doing stuff like bike rides down the canal. Now, you’re stuck in your room. The real you is your second life; life on the internet is your first life.’ This is just so sad.
I thought I was going to write a ton about all this, but it speaks for itself. What is astonishing is the age at which some of these young people have commenced their Internet life.
In the knee-jerk reaction to all this from the authorities, we can see that it’s not only a case of shutting the stable door after the horse is 100 miles away, it’s a case of biased, bigoted, misandrist, populist bullshit.
Nearly all of any legislation introduced has, bizarrely, seemed to imply that the sending of nudie pics by girls is OK (because, of course, all girls are innocents who are victims), but the boyfriends and classmates (males) who receive them are heinous villains who need to be incarcerated. It’s not sought to deal with any of the problems – it’s just sought to appease the likes of the lunatics, who read hysterical nonsense in the gutter Press, with ill-conceived laws that will only make matters worse.
Centuries ago, the masses used to clamour for the execution of witches, and were only happy when someone got burned alive; then it was heretics; then it was based on race or politics. The same types of people who would have joined in with genocide and pogroms are now looking for another group in society to punish and persecute. Except now it’s even more scary – the people they want hanged are children. If they fail at that, then it just happens to be any innocent person who dares to speak the truth, or an innocent person who just happens to be unfortunate enough to have fallen victim to the Anonymous finger-pointing exercise.
Every day, my contempt for humanity deepens.
Readers, I beg you. Keep striving. Stand up for love and understanding, for education and the gaining of knowledge. The world can be a great place, and there is a Hell of a lot of positive stuff out there. Just don’t let it be spoiled by ignorance and stupidity. Don’t let it fall apart – strive for peace and forgiveness. Keep your kids safe. Love them. Teach them. Protect them.
Tell them Philip Rose told you to do that! LOL.
Take care, everybody. And remember what I called this blog.