Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Pits of Social Media

Normally when I blog its of an amusing nature however today I feel so strongly about something I wanted to raise awareness. I wanted to share something that I am sure lots of people aren't aware of. 

In 2004 a college student Mark Zuckerberg would create something that most people now use as an everyday activity. It would bring people together from opposite ends of the globe. It would allow people to share pictures, memories and for some just let people know what they had for their tea. Facebook a major social networking site would become a mass phenomenon. I never really cared for it whilst I lived in the UK, but living in Jersey its been a great way to keep in touch. As you know this blog will be posted on Facebook. Yes it bugs me a little when an unflattering picture is tagged but all in all I quite like using it. That picture that's tagged I know who did it. I can remove it if I so choose. I can send a private message "with you bugger that picture is awful". Generally my wishes are respected.

However there is a new craze. Something that children feel they want to be part of in case they miss out. This social networking site is Ask.fm. If you haven't heard about it google it. If you have a child in their adolescent years its possible they have an account. The purpose of this site was for children to ask questions they might normally be shy to ask. In principle I get that. Unfortunately the key aspect of this site you can ask questions anonymously. I say question its generally abuse.
"Do you cut yourself? You are fat and ugly?"  Sexually explicit questions and the worse kind "Go kill yourself, no one wants you".

There has been newspaper articles relating to children taking their own lives linked with  constant torment and cyber bullying conducted by the cowards otherwise known as the anonymous.

Within my own home, the beaus daughter had an account. I consider myself vigilant and responsible but its difficult to try and watch everything the girls do. She had held an account for months.  On finding the account it was horrific to read the vitriolic comments aimed at her. She no longer has an account. However her friends do. I remember  peer pressure, wanting to be part of something and the fear of missing out. Sometimes its a difficult time as an adolescent trying to walk that fine line of wanting to be popular and doing the right thing. 

People have campaigned to try and get the site closed but as a Latvian company it sits outside UK law. 
Ask.fm founder Mark Terebin posted a statement in defence of his website: "Ask.fm is just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other, same as any other social network, same as phone, same as piece of paper and pen. Don't blame a tool, but try to make changes... start with yourself... be more polite, more kind, more tolerant of others... cultivate these values in families, in schools."

I believe I have these values. I also believe we are instilling them in the beau's child. We want her to do the right thing and understand the obnoxiousness and dispicable behaviour  of how cowardly people can be. How hiding behind your keyboard and writing horrific bullying messages does not make you a decent person. She is comprehending that. It can be argued that those writing anonymous comments on ask.fm are trolls. Those that set out to write inflammatory comments to promote an emotive response are generally trolls. However its not always the case. Certainly in my own experience of researching it, lots of comments are done by children as young as 13 who use the online community to bully others.

A current comment on  a persons ask.fm profile is "Lol I cyber bully all the time! Its fucking fun don't ruin the fun by this stop the bullying shit"
The response, "Guess you got some problem young lad ;) and saying "fucking" or "shit" doesn't make yourself look cool just saying have a nice day".
Unfortunately not all have the emotional maturity to answer such abuse succinctly. Children generally don't have the skills to verbally fight back.

Sadly one such boy was Joshua Unsworth who  hanged himself last week in Goosnargh, Preston  after enduring months of constant cyber bullying on ask.fm.  I am sure his parents don't agree with Mark Terebin's statement. How hard would it be for the site to have responsible policies of monitoring? Facebook does and it hasn't impacted on their success. 

I cried when I read about Josh and I thought about the inflammatory disgusting comments I had read on both the beau's daughters page and her friends.

I am doing everything that is possible to raise awareness about this site. I have spoken to  the the E safety Officer. I have been into the beau's daughters school and I am educating the beau's daughters about respecting and standing up for yourself.
I want to do what ever I can to inform people about the site. However I want the girls to have their privacy and make informed choices . Maybe that's a tad hippyesque, but I want them to say no that's not right because they know it isn't, not just because we say it isn't. So far that process is working. Tonight she read the article from the Mail that talked about Josh Unsworth. We discussed the reality of cyber bullying. 

So think about it readers, do you know what sites you children are signed up to? Have you heard of ask.fm and have you explored whether your child is on it?

I enjoy social networking and appreciate its value but what joy is there in being told several times a day "No one wants you". 

I never use my blog to campaign or ask you to sign up for something. That is not its purpose. For me its about my journey in Jersey. So by asking  you to consider looking  at it then it demonstrates the concern about what is happening.