Trouble on Myspace? Dial 999

Social Networking VictimFrom 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?

Comments

  1. If adults often can't discover online fraud themselves, what do they expect from children?!

    Maybe the government are just making too big a deal out of this. Like, how many children actually suffered from social networking and in what ways (apart from their school grades)?

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  2. I think you're right, Andro. The media have jumped on the social networking bandwagon and making an awful lot out of a theoretical risk.

    Still, much better that, than the world sitting back, resting on their laurels, I suppose. The risks of fraud, grooming and all the rest are in many ways, perceived rather than actual. Plus, we always assume, rightly or wrongly, that younger web users are in greater danger. I'm not too sure that's true, though. Young web users are being brought up in an online world and, from my experience, tend to be not only more tech-savvy but also much more aware of some dangers they face than are older web users.

    I'm probably only perpetuating the problem of the media jumping on the bandwagon for just about every minor rumour about the security and safety of online life, particuarly when it comes to kids. But, really: Dial 999 ads on Myspace' - how could I turn that type of material down.

    And it makes a change for me not to be targetting Facebook for once, doesn't it?! :-P

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  3. Well, you are still technically targeting facebook on the photo... ;D

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  4. True, but seeing I didn't directly refer to them in the post, I thought at least the picture ought to include them. Couldn't let them get away completely 'scot free' could I?! :-P

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