Photo sharing online
Photo sharing online has become a regular occurrence for most of us. We do not think twice about taking a photo of ourselves or our children and posting it online. It has become the norm for most adults and for many children, although it will be interesting to see whether today’s children (many of whom have had no say in the number of images of them posted online by their parents) behave differently when they have children of their own.
1500 Images Online
We expect young people to think about their digital footprint when, as parents, we are doing a pretty good job of posting their every move. By the time a child is 5 years old there will be approximately 1,500 images of them online. We need to curb our own habits to give young people the role models and control to think about and protect their own digital footprint.
One of the biggest emerging risks within online safeguarding is ‘Youth Produced Sexual Imagery’ or ‘Sexting’. Sadly, this is quite a common occurrence but many children and, I suspect, many teaching staff are not aware of all the consequences. Most are aware of the embarrassment and reputation damage of having an image shared without permission, but less are aware of the law and the potential legal consequences.
Look at the PDF within our Gooseberry Alerts. It might help educate your school community that in the UK, it is illegal to take, make, possess or share indecent images of a child under the age of 18, even if done by an under 18 year-old and even if the other child consented. This means that taking an indecent image of another child or receiving one on their phone can leave a child liable to a criminal record.
Changing online behaviour
I firmly believe that children and young people are influenced by adult behaviour. I know it is very difficult with social media and bloggers who show flesh freely, but like a lot of things in life, the fact that this happens doesn’t make it right. Changing this culture will take time, but we must educate our children at an earlier age about what is appropriate and what isn’t, as well as the consequences.
Teachers & Parents
Teachers and parents may feel worried or embarrassed about starting this conversation, but it can be such a damaging experience for a child. Peer pressure or grooming can coerce young people into sharing inappropriate images. An open discussion to reinforce the message that this is wrong and risky, and the potentially life-affecting consequences is essential to protect young people.