E-safety Review of 2014

Governor Training 8In the final E-safety Support article of the year, we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to look back at some of the major news stories and events that have shaped the world of e-safety during 2014.

In January, the Christmas sales figures reported the huge increase in sales of tablet devises, changing the way many young people interact with the online environment. Unsurprisingly then, the biggest trend on display at the 2014 Bett show was that of implementing these devises into education.

February saw the 11th annual Safer Internet Day. Activities were held across the UK and reached millions. We are of course, looking forward to the event again in 2015. February also saw the fleeting internet craze, Nek-Nominate. This saw many young people taking sometimes fatal risks in order to go one better than their predecessors in this online phenomenon.

In March, a new NSPCC report found that 28% of children aged 11-16 with a profile on a social networking site have experienced something upsetting on it in the last year. In other news, teachers too were once again recognised by unions as needing ‘rules’ for social media usage. However, the positive side of social media was also recognised when the ‘no make-up selfie’ campaign raised millions for charity.

At the beginning of April, Ofsted released their latest inspecting e-safety briefing document containing suggestions for good and outstanding practice in this area. This report was to be later removed from the public domain, although the requirement for a robust e-safety provision in schools was still very much on the Ofsted agenda.

May saw the emergence of ‘Creepshots’, websites that operate like social networking media sites where members are encouraged to post photos that have been taken possibly without consent or knowledge of the person in them. May was also the month when the European Union set a major precedent over what is now referred to as the "right to be forgotten".

Slenderman made an appearance in June, the disturbing Internet creation that is being blamed for a series of near fatal stabbings. In other news in June, Facebook announced plans for a platform for children under 13 to have social networking profile. A report from AGV found that almost 80% of parents blame the Internet for forcing the 'Facts of Life' conversation. It was also suggested that contrary to popular opinion, children's unorthodox spelling and grammar while texting does not stop them learning the rules of formal English.

July saw the launch of Friendly WiFi. Friendly WiFi is the world’s first accreditation scheme designed to verify whether a business’ public Wi-Fi service meets a minimum level of filtering to block out access to pornographic and child abuse websites. This brand new service aims to protect young people when they access the Internet using Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, restaurants etc.

In August, a study by Oxford University saw the positive side of gaming, suggesting that playing video games for a short period each day could have a small but positive impact on child development. Also in August, Ofcom announced figures which suggested that six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults.

In September, The Telegraph reported that parents feel more confident talking to their children about notoriously tricky topics like the birds and the bees, puberty and race than they do about how to use the internet safely – and some plan to avoid it, despite admitting its importance. In related news, parents were encouraged to pay more attention to the apps their children download after new research found that nearly a third do not monitor the downloads their children make to their smartphones.

News in October reported that teenagers sending each other sexually explicit messages and images – known as sexting – is increasingly becoming a “normal” part of growing up. However, they were also warned about the risks and potential legal issues surrounding sexting. It was also in October when the leak of images from the popular app Snapchat (which became known as the ‘Snappening’) put the privacy of many young people at risk.

As we reached November, many schools and organisations geared up for Anti-Bullying Week. With more and more children owning mobile devices and spending longer online and on social media, cyber bullying is becoming one of the most common forms of bullying. The annual event organised by the Anti Bullying Alliance saw many activities across the UK.

And finally, in December, the Prime Minister spoke at the #We Protect Children Online summit to commit to tackling online safety. David Cameron revealed details of 3 main strategies to tackle online child exploitation; blocking internet search terms, identifying illegal images and Global child protection and laws.

Looking back, it’s been an eventful year, with the world of e-safety evolving and online trends coming and going in a flash. We expect 2015 to be no different, so will be continuing to support you and your school with up-to-date news and information about the e-safety issues that affect you.

Written by E-safety Support on December 18, 2014 13:57

Creepshots : Can the law keep up with new and emerging websites ?

It's safe to say that if you caught a stranger taking a picture of you or a part of your body you would be unhappy to say the least. You'd not be wrong to assume it was illegal or at best you would be able to have rights over the usage of any images. Well, it’s sadly not a clear issue.

Therefore, I was shocked to read this week of the increasing popularity of websites that go under the title of 'creepshots'. They operate like social networking media sites where members are encouraged to post photos that have been taken possibly without consent or knowledge of the person in them, even worse, the pictures are nearly always of parts of the body such as legs, breasts or bottoms.

According to the news this week complaints of men taking pictures of women and young girls in public have increased dramatically and it's very difficult to control or even remove the pictures from the internet once uploaded.

On researching such websites this week, firstly I had no problem finding such sites by simply searching under creepshots. Once into the hompage, I was initially faced with a set of rules and regulations that professed that uploaded pictures will be removed if taken 'up skirts' and also photos of 'obvious minors'...but when clicking on a hyperlink horribly named 'jailbait' (there was another dubious link named 'teen' ) I saw a stream of images of some young girls who I would class as under or around the age of 16 in very suggestive photos, unfortunately there were more of a concerning nature further through the slide show. Scary stuff indeed. It also appeared that the particular site I visited, even though a small registration process was necessary to upload images, anyone can view photos, which, in my opinion can fuel a user's preferences. I have read that creepshot websites are not closely monitored and have few rules, whatever the current situation it's obvious that loopholes in the law are being exploited.

Interestingly, when reading complaints about these sites, creepshot users replied with 'we're no different from the paparazzi'. So are we now living with the same threat as celebrities in the way that they fear photographers' lenses whenever they leave the house? And as we know, Heat and magazines alike have a huge following and are lucrative...the more telling or grotesque the photo the more it is likely to be on the front cover. Did we feel sorry for Hugh Grant when he was very outspoken in his views regarding press intrusion? Can we now be a little more sympathetic to celebrities calls for increased privacy laws in this country when now we are in danger of being 'papped' ourselves by a group of self titled Paparazzi?

So, where does this leave young people with these emerging threats to privacy and innocence? It all lies in educating them to be aware of the dangers and steer clear of websites that can encourage users to get hooked into viewing images which are inappropriate and potentially damaging. Does it just boil down to teaching girls and boys about the continual and ever changing dangers of social networking and incorporate into this the law, and what is legal and illegal. It isn't an easy job, and as identified above, the law seems to be one step behind the internet. This week the PSHE association have announced parliamentary inquiry into schools PSHE provision, and whether it is 'fit for purpose' in an ever changing world. Hopefully the findings will be that it should be compulsory in schools to teach about e-safety for the continual well being of our young people.

We spoke to our Digital Leaders group who discussed this trend in class and with their parents - here are their comments:

Eight Digital Leader students looked at this matter and some involved their parents to give views also. All of the students and parents commented that they thought that there was no one, particularly the Police, who would really deal with any creepy photography incident that seriously. The thought was that they may only be bothered about matters like this when a real problem has occurred and someone is hurt or wronged after the fact. When I asked if this was through experience it turned out not to be so; we concluded that this was just a perception through lack of any high profile outcomes in the media. They thought that as the media were often both blatant and sometimes covertly trying to obtain images to get a sensational story, that they were very blasé about this issue and would probably not highlight this type of story as fingers might point at their own methods.

Students commented that if someone were taking pictures near a kid’s playground then they would find it more worrisome if it was a man. I asked what their reaction would be in this instance and they said that there would be nothing they could do, they knew it would be dangerous to approach that person and that they would have to tell a responsible adult, but the pictures are by this time already taken and the photographer would be gone. Parents mostly said that they would politely challenge a person taking photographs and would be suspicious of the person’s intent. They commented that even if they were upset what could practically be done.

Parents and children asked about legislation, but could not find anything that would necessarily work when we discussed it. No one could see where there is any defining line, never-mind when that line is crossed between what is publicly decent and what is creepy or perverse …and that almost any incident could reasonably easily and very plausibly be explained away as an usual circumstance. The police would only have recourse to stake out the location and hope for a repeat incident by the same individual and then only act if the person was on the sex offenders register. If there was a reasonable excuse then what can they do? The only definite line we could see was if someone set out to covertly ‘spy’ on someone else. Placing hidden cameras and maybe even operating them remotely was a definite area that should trigger an investigation and where a line of tolerability had definitely been crossed.

While the group were unable to come to a conclusion on this matter, it does demonstrate the lack of clear legalities around this issue and the feeling that nothing can be done when it happens.

If you would like to add your comments on this topic, please do so below.

Written by Vicki Dan on May 22, 2014 07:56


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