Last week, people across America took part in national Unplugging Day providing a welcomed opportunity to disconnect from digital devices and reconnect with family, friends and loved ones. Perhaps something we could use in the UK following the latest headlines of the detrimental effects the internet is having on the young and the increasing worry and panic surrounding how to keep children safe online.
Currently, not a day passes where the news isn’t bursting with horror stories over children’s safety whilst online. The BBC has reported shocking and harrowing statistics revealed by the NSPCC, showing that the number of children targeted for grooming and abuse on Instagram has more than tripled, with victims as young as five years old. Since the crime of sexual communication with a child came into force in 2017, a total of 5,161 crimes were recorded by the police.
The NSPCC said Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat had been used in 70% of the 1,317 in cases in a six-month period where police had recorded the method used and has led the charity to brand the internet as the “Wild West Web”.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there is also the latest online challenge aimed at children which, without any doubt, is particularly gruesome. In a bid not to give it anymore exposure, but to add some refrenece to this feature, here’s a very brief synopsis just in case you’ve missed it. The Momo Challenge purports to tell children to perform dangerous and violent tasks via social media videos and if they don’t comply or they tell anyone what they’ve seen, then a scary lady with big protruding eyes will hurt them or their loved ones. It has certainly caught the media’s attention and as a result has whipped parents, carers, guardians and society as a whole into a frenzy.
Concerningly, and as with the nature of the social media beast, this has now gone viral.
Reports are now surfacing that the Momo Challenge could actually be a hoax and that charities say there have been no reports of anybody receiving messages or harming themselves as a result and warning that media coverage has amplified a false scare story. Kat Tremlett, harmful content manager at the UK Safer Internet Centre, said: “Even though it’s done with best intentions, publicising this issue has only piqued curiosity among young people. It is a myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality.
Even if this is a scaremongering tactic, what lessons can we learn from this?
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks. We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act.” Keeping children safe online should be the responsibility of society as a whole. Everyone has a role to play, parents, teachers, social workers, carers and guardians alike all need to promote healthy use of the internet, not just the perils and pitfalls, but the advantages it can have for learning if used correctly.
Katie Williams, Associate Solicitor, Family Department at Letchers said: “Whilst the latest headlines and figures are disturbing what it does provide is a great opportunity to talk to your children about what they are doing online. Try asking them about the sites they are viewing, what games they are playing and who they are talking too? Keeping up regular open and transparent conversations about a child’s use of the internet is one of the best ways to stay informed and keep abreast of their activities.
“The internet can be a very dangerous place and in an ideal world all parents and carers will be able to amicably discuss arrangements for their children, however that is sadly not always the case. Try writing to each other rather than face to face as that reduces the chance of dispute or one person not having their concerns heard. If that doesn’t work you could try mediation.”
At Letchers we have qualified mediators who can provide a safe and independent space to resolve conflict. Failing that we are able to look after your interests through any court proceedings which may be needed, always with the child’s best interests at heart. If you would like any assistance on any child or family related matter please call a member of our experience team on 01425 471 424 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Information on our website is published for general information only and represents our opinion on matters at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and must not be treated as a substitute for it. For legal advice, contact us on 01425 471 424