SEXUAL ABUSE AND HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS
In response to the many thousands of recent reports of sexual abuse and violence against children and young people made anonymously to the “Everyone’s Invited” website, the government has announced the launch of a new, dedicated helpline for victims of sexual abuse in schools. The helpline is run by the NSPCC and will provide support and advice for parents and professionals. The government has also announced a review of safeguarding policies in both state and independent schools, to be undertaken immediately by Ofsted.
Easy access to online pornography has been suggested as one of the contributors to the incidence of sexual abuse amongst UK school and university students. Online content is often more extreme than offline and can alter young people’s views of what a normal relationship involves and can have a negative impact on perceptions of consent.
The Children’s Commissioner calls for schools to support to anyone affected and to address any underlying culture that might lead children to think that abuse or harassment will be ignored. She recognises that messages about respect and zero tolerance of harassment or abuse should be promoted by schools as well as by parents and carers at home.
LOOT BOXES AND GAMBLING
A recent study commissioned by GambleAware has investigated the links between Loot Boxes and problem gaming or gambling with a view to informing the government’s upcoming review of the Gambling Act. The report titled “Lifting the Lid on Loot Boxes” defines Loot Boxes as “any game-related purchase with a chance-based outcome”. It reveals that 93% of UK children play video games and that 25-40% of them have made a loot box purchase. It concludes that loot box purchases and gambling are related behaviours and confirms a significant correlation between loot box expenditure and signs of problem gambling. It also notes that young people (particularly males, who tend to be more impulsive) are more vulnerable to and have a higher prevalence of problem gambling.
Most loot box purchases are fairly modest, averaging less than £20 per month but the report found a small minority of individuals spending £100’s per month who, the analysis suggests, are much more likely to be problem gamblers.
The report makes a range of recommendations including adult ratings for loot box games, disclosure of odds, and the imposition of spending limits. It warns of the difficulties of enacting watertight legislation to cover every situation since loot boxes are just the obvious face of links between gaming and gambling, and unscrupulous developers will find other strategies to monetise their products.
Facebook has sought to address concerns about how algorithms operate by giving users greater understanding and transparency about how they rank content and more control over the content users are shown. A new “Favorites” product has been introduced to allow users to make their own choices of friends or Pages they want to feature in their News Feed, rather than just accept the top friends and Pages that Facebook suggests. It has also introduced a new “Feed Filter Bar” to make it easier to find the controls that turn off algorithmic ranking and instead allow News Feeds to promote the most recent posts first. Facebook has also attempted to increase transparency around ad placement by extending the “Why Am I Seeing This?” tool to some suggested posts as well as to the current posts in News Feeds.
These changes, according to Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs for Facebook, represent part of a “significant shift” in Facebook’s thinking about algorithms and how Facebook can “utilize content ranking and distribution to ensure the platform has a positive impact on society as a whole”.
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