Selfies, Sexting and Sextortion

This week there have been a string of reminders in the news about the risks young people are exposed to through selfies, sexting and sextortion.

Just a week ago, news reports announced that the College of Policing was advising that not all cases of sexting should be reported as a crime. To avoid criminalising young people for inappropriate but generally naive behaviour, the report suggested that a ‘common sense’ approach be taken particularly in cases where the images are self-generated or obtained with consent. While the new advice has been largely well received, it remains to be seen how this will protect those involved, when a self-generated image gets shared beyond it’s intended recipient for example – and who has the responsibility for deciding what should and shouldn’t be reported.

A few days on, and a new online challenge emerged – the one finger challenge. This, the latest in the ‘online challenge’ genre, encourages people to take naked selfies in a mirror, using one finger to cover up their privates. It’s easy to see how this ‘challenge’ could be attractive to young people. It’s also easy to see how it can lead to regrettable and potentially upsetting situations for those involved at a later stage. There would no doubt be a considerable amount of peer pressure to get involved in the ‘challenge’, which could also lead to bullying for both those who do and do not take part.

24 hours later, Jeremy Hunt announced to the Commons Health Committee on suicide prevention efforts, that children should be blocked from texting sexually explicit images by social media companies. Mr Hunt urged technology companies to use software to identify and prevent inappropriate images being sent by under 18s. This recommendation has come under fire, suggesting that this form or ‘censorship’ could do more harm than good. And surely, this blinkered approach to an out-right ban on sexting for under 18s conflicts with the earlier advice from the College of Policing, who seemingly have accepted that sexting is part of current youth culture.

And lastly, on the same day, the National Crime Agency (NCA) reported that sextortion has increased. Sextortion is a form of blackmail, where victims are coerced into performing sex acts on webcams by fraudsters. The victims are then blackmailed with the footage. A substantial proportion of victims are aged between 11 and 20. This is a relatively new crime, but has already been linked to four suicides in the UK including one teenage boy. In response, the NCA have launched a campaign to give advice to actual and potential victims.

So, once again, these varying news items have brought to the forefront the issues surrounding the sharing of personal images online. The suggestions that have been made are likely to have mixed reaction and indeed mixed success. But ultimately, they all remind us that teaching children about these risks, must be embedded in online safety education.



Opinions will vary on the matters raised in these news reports and we welcome your thoughts using the comments section below.

Written by E-safety Support on December 02, 2016 09:46

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 14:04

The many faces of the selfie

A video which went viral recently was that of a father who had captured his daughter taking endless selfies, innocently pulling an array of faces at herself, for that one perfect 'selfie'. I have to confess to being a little amused at the sheer determination of the young lady involved and her apparent focus on the task - if only all students could apply this level of concentration in the classroom...!

It is unfortunate that something which can clearly cause so much entertainment can also have a negative side too - we have heard many stories about selfies being used for sexting and how they can have serious consequences for all concerned. However, in a recent article from market research company Vobxurner, they identify some of the less innocent selfie trends that are also emerging.

Distasteful hashtags

Young consumers are taking to using rather unnerving selfies accompanied by even more unnerving hashtags. Snapping away at funerals (#funeralselfie) and with homeless people (#homelessselfie) is considered a ‘thing,’ and shows how a fun and positive trend can flip 180 into being dark, sinister and so blatantly disrespectful.

The young and vulnerable

Young girls are hashtagging the #thighgap trend, which came about earlier this year, closely followed by the #bikinigap. To explain, the thigh gap is the gap in between the legs, that only skinny people (or people with wide-set hips) can attain, and the bikini gap is when your hip bones protrude creating a gap in between a girl’s, or boy’s for that matter, bikini bottoms or trunks. This scary phase is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, especially for teenage girls who are so vulnerable and at risk of eating disorders.

Kim Kardashian’s ‘Selfish’ book

It would be a crime to write an article on the subject of selfies without Kim K’s name being mentioned. The queen of selfies has created a book titled, ‘Selfish,’ which simply contains a whole load of selfies. Dubbed narcissistic by many, this shows how everyone has become somewhat self-absorbed. Or perhaps we always were and this is just a new way to document it. As the Wall Street Journal put it so aptly, "Get over your selfie.”

Dangerous surrounds

People are going to extreme measures and putting themselves in danger to take that absolutely perfect selfie.

Most recently a couple fell to their death after trying to take a snapshot while on holiday in Lisbon, Portugal. Meanwhile an Italian girl plunged 60ft to her death as she attempted to take a selfie while on rocks in the seaside town of Taranto.

If this doesn’t prove the trend has gone too far, nothing will.

Anti-selfies

There’s now an ‘anti-selfie’ app to counteract the countless number of selfies continuously surfacing on the Internet. SLMMSK comes with a special set of filters. Users simply turn on the camera function to get some of the best obscuring filters around. Thanks to the app’s facial detection technology, users can recreate and edit images so as to hide the fact that that it was originally a selfie. There’s the option to blur your face, hide your eyes, cover yourself with emojis or just add a frown in real-time.

If you have spotted a selfie trend among your school community, please let us know by using the comments section below.

Written by E-safety Support on September 04, 2014 10:37


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