Social media now plays a significant role in many young people’s lives. Its benefits have been reported to include delivering educational outcomes, facilitating supportive relationships, aiding identity formation and promoting a sense of belonging and self-esteem. However there are also challenges and risks including those associated with misuse of social media for inappropriate sexual purposes.
Over the next four days this blog will consider a number of issues associated with the negative impact of social media on young and vulnerable children and adults. We will consider the rise of sexting and how to address it depending upon the relative positions of those involved.
We will look at whether there should be a code of conduct to regulate the social media providers. We will highlight the rise of cyber-bullying and of online grooming and begin to look at how these issues can be tackled.
Throughout the blogs the strongest theme is one of education, of empowering children, parents and carers and those organisations they interact with, with the knowledge and tools they need to understand the risks and to keep apace of an online world which is constantly changing and evolving. As ever, prevention is better than cure, but where there have been instances of abusive behaviour linked to social media there are already existing laws and guidance to help in the response to the same.
Online abuse is of course, an international issue. Whilst the UK, through the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command and the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, is leading the way in advising and responding to the issues faced, the international aspect of online abuse make it even more challenging to deal with. However it is imperative that steps are taken now to ensure that children now and in the future are kept safe and able to grow and benefit from the opportunities social media affords.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner at BLM