Trouble on Myspace? Dial 999
From Gizmodo.com 02.04.08
Social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace may soon have to carry a '999' emergency link to improve the safety of kids online.
In a 73-page draft of a report due to be published on Friday by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, the sites will have to carry ads for the emergency services so that kids can call if they feel they are being targeted by potential abusers.
Experts contributing to the report claimed that youngsters are at risk from 'sexual grooming' by paedophiles, bullying and online fraud.
I'm not quite sure how practical and effective this suggestion is, quite honestly but at least the Government are examining the problems poses by social networking for young web users. Undoubtedly, they want to be seen to be doing something, but whatever the reason, this issue is too important to ignore.
I can't help feeling that better education of the risks involved, coupled with technological advances to help filter or restrict some of the more dangerous elements of the sites would be a more effective way to go. I mean, blocking the site completely is more of a sure-fire way of removing the danger, but, sadly, if a kid wants to do something which their parents have forbidden, they'll generally find a way of doing it. After all, they could opt for something as quick and straightforward as using the site at a friend's house whose parents don't block access to the site.
Better education, awareness and guidance are crucial because the whole point about online grooming is that the kids rarely recognise they're in danger. Sticking an online banner ad up saying 'Dial 999' is going to have little effect on this problem, surely? Save, perhaps, for tripling the number of hoax emergency calls.
In related news, Ofcom have today reported that around half the children using the net in the UK have profiles on social networking sites, despite the policies those site have in place to discourage and prevent pre-teens signing up. In a somewhat trite observation, Ofcom noted from their research that such users are not particularly concerned with such issues as online privacy. Oh really?