A Shout about E-Safety!

This week the Unique Voice office has been busy preparing everything for the E-Safety tour which is kicking off in schools this week. For this week’s blog, Sarah takes a look into just why this tour is so important.

There is no denying that the internet plays a prevalent part in today’s society. The youngest generation are up to date with the latest gadgets, apps and social media sites, and for many the internet is only ever a couple of taps away.

Don’t get me wrong, the internet is indeed a wonderful source of knowledge, interest and fun- but as younger and younger children are introduced to it, it is crucial that we encourage safe use of what can be an upsetting and harmful environment.

Technically, Facebook is exclusively for users aged 13+, but from visiting several schools in Bristol it appears that the majority of 10 year olds are frequent visitors to the site. ‘Ah but they’re only chatting to their friends’ you might say. Let’s just stop there and think about that word- because more often than not ‘friends’ on social media sites differ hugely from the people we might have a face to face interaction with. It’s no secret that many young people seek popularity or boast about the number of friends they have on Facebook or followers they have on twitter. What’s scary is that many children’s friend list features friends of friends, or strangers- who could easily have lied about who they are, created a profile and character to hide behind.

That’s another thing- whilst many of us might enjoy updating our profiles or adding our information when we join a site like these, too many people are laying their lives out for others to watch and follow. Personal details such as your address or phone number can allow the wrong people to access more information about you, and whilst the majority of people who use the internet don’t mean any harm to others, we have to acknowledge the fact that unfortunately paedophiles and stalkers do exist.

But it’s not just strangers we need to be wary of; even people we know and count as friends can turn nasty from behind a computer screen. Cyber-bullying is something we can’t afford to ignore, and is a significant problem among young people. Back in the days before smartphones, a rumour might take a couple of days to circulate a year group, but now things are shared, liked and retweeted in seconds making them much harder to ignore and forget. Facebook has, for many, become a diary; where feelings and frustrations are laid bare for the world to see. Perhaps people don’t know where else to vent these emotions, but the danger of doing so online is that it can often attract the wrong kind of attention (the comment box favourite ‘attention seeker’ springs to mind).

I think the use of social media has become such a habit these days that people forget the value of speaking face to face. With many people’s lives increasingly on-the-go, more and more of our communication occurs online (there’s rarely an hour in the day where I don’t reply to an email or Facebook message), but that shouldn’t be a replacement for human interaction.

I would struggle to cope with my schedule without the internet, and with a sister living in Corfu a Facebook message is a financially more appealing thought than a phonecall! But regardless of the perks of the World Wide Web, our priority has to be protecting the young people who use it, ensuring that they know the ways in which they can protect themselves and surf safely.


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