Web worries

The challenges and issues created by the online world

Introduction

Before the midterm break I attended an e-safety conference hosted by Greenford High School which looked at the current challenges presented to schools as a result of the increasing use of the internet and mobile technology. The conference also raised awareness of the many organisations that exist to support schools and parents in this area and explained good practice currently taking place in Greenford High School.

I always find that figures and statistics really highlight the importance or severity of an issue for me and the most recent OFCOM report on this topic managed to do just that by enabling me to form a greater understanding of the growing use of ‘personal technology’ and ‘social media sites’ among an ever younger child audience.


  • 62% of children use tablets at home (up from 42% in 2013)
  • 34% of 5-15 year olds own a tablet (up from 19% in 2013)
  • 71% of 12-15 year olds have a social media profile
  • 42% of girls and 30% of boys = instagram
  • 33% of girls and 20% of boys = snapchat
  • 11% of girls and 11% of boys = tumblr

Always online

Even more concerning is how easy it is for younger, and older, users to fail to realise that they are actually using the internet. For example, most students reach the online world through apps or games consoles and don't always realise that they are actually online or connected to the internet. How many of us use what’s app and consciously realise we are using the internet to communicate in this way?


Evidently this increasing use of technology and the internet brings with it a wider array of risks, challenges and concerns for our young people, but also for us too. Therefore, as parents and teachers, we need to be aware of these risks so that we can protect and educate our young people in the use of technology.


One important point I took from the conference was that we will never be able to keep up with technology. New apps will continue to be released daily. New social media sites will be launched and replace the current popular ones. Bearing this in mind it is important for us to instead focus on the values and morals we instil into our young people; their values and beliefs about sex, consent and relationships will hugely impact their online activity, thus good sex education is essential. They also need to be aware of the risks they face when partaking in any online activity.


OFCOM research identified the main activities that young people use media and the internet for as social networking, gaming, apps and webcams. According to the Safer Internet Centre, we, as parents and teachers, should be asking them what activities they partake in online, not what apps they use.

Online language

Without sounding like the 'older generation' I don't think we will ever understand the function and uses of each app, nor it seems will we be able to keep up to date with the new language used online. Just to give a short insight into some of the new acronyms I was introduced to.


  • DIRL : die in real life
  • GNOC: get naked on camera
  • GOKID: got observers, keep it decent
  • IDTTY: I don't talk to you
  • NP4NP: naked pics for naked pics
  • MOS/MIW: mom over shoulder/mom is watching
  • IHML: I hate my life
  • Bio-oil: reference to self harm

Concerns

Some of the growing concerns that we should be mindful and vigilant of include:


  1. Geo tagging: most smart technology has it embedded now and can quickly identify where you are. Apps that access your location services may be able to inform those you communicate with of your exact location. e.g dating apps-within a 5 mile radius etc. In fact the latest app, HappN actually uses GPS tracking to identify users within a 250 metre radius.
  2. Digital footprint: everything you post online, every piece of data remains with you (for life). I was in the Apple store at the weekend and the sales advisor told me my old phone would not be refurbished and passed on to another user as data is never properly erased from it, similar to a computer hard drive. Deleted items can be recovered.
  3. Sexting: According to stats, 3 out of 4 teenagers truly believe that any pictures they send that are considered sexy or sexual will only ever be seen by the recipient (source:e-safety support)
  4. Revenge porn: CHILDREN as young as 11 are among the victims of "revenge pornography" and clarification of the laws surrounding it is needed.
  5. Online community: these communities are un-moderated and unknown. More and more young people find it easier to reach out to an online community; more vulnerable young people can escape online and can feel like they fit in online, SEN children can meet others online who are ‘like’ them, certain students can fell ‘normal’ online.
  6. Reporting: young people don’t report abuse or use abuse buttons (as seen on the CEOP website).
  7. Other concerns include sharing of personal data, grooming, identity theft to name but a few.
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Cyberbullying

It is no surprise though that one of the top four concerns for parents is cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can take so many forms, as detailed below and is different from bullying as it is remote, it can be anonymous, it can be 24/7 and can be seen by a wider audience.


  • harassment
  • flaming (posting hostile messages)
  • happy slapping (attacking a person, filming it and posting it online)
  • cyber stalking
  • polls (e.g. ask fm)
  • snap chat
  • outing (disclosing a LGBT)
  • sexting
  • denigration (character attacking)
  • trolling
  • hate groups


The perceptions and viewpoints we need to change are detailed below. These are the findings of research carried out my Greenford High.

  • 55% of young people think cyber bullying is acceptable
  • 58% didn't try to get help
  • 88% of images on porn sites were taken from young people
  • 51% would tell a parent
  • 53% would tell a teacher / staff
  • 84% would tell a trained young person