Selfies... harmless fun or careless exposure?

Michael Gove has done it recently, As has David Camreron and Barack Obama...(courting controversy in its wake too)...we're talking 'Selfies' and a staggering 91% of teens are doing it.

Along with the growing trend, there are accompanying Apps which play up to our insecurities and perpetuate the concept that we need to project the perfect image to the world. The Apps that are most worrying are 'Skinnee pix' and Snapchat.

Skinnee pix is the most worrying app in terms of young people as it’s designed to shed up to 15 lbs off your image. Justifying the app, the makers claim that photos add an average of 15 lbs to the average person and they are simply just taking away what photos add. However, it's still encouraging teens to see and be curious about what they would look like 'if only' they could lose a stone in weight. Moreover is it reinforcing users to sink deeper into narcissism? After all, it's been proven that women and young girls post more Selfies than males, does this prove that females base their self worth on how attractive they are, opposed to intelligence, personality and skills?

Snapchat is another growing app, being used by 24% of 8 year olds. This is a service where you send photos and a short message to a recipient and it will only exist for 10 seconds before disappearing into the cyber abyss. The very concept of this being temporary could be argued that it encourages users to be more risqué or push boundaries further as it won't be a permanent record of peoples online behaviour. It also could make cyber bullying far more difficult to prove or track, appealing to young people out there who are tempted to send things for a 'joke' when it is anything but for the recipient.

Lastly, on the subject of Selfies...if heads of state are able to make errors in judgement about the appropriacy of taking and sharing their Selfies (Nelson Mandela's memorial) then expect our young people to sometimes get it wrong too.

Good advice to give to young people about selfies

- Employers can and will check online profiles...always be mindful that photos are a true representation of you as a person. They should depict you in a positive light, incorporating interests and hobbies, loved ones and positive aspects of your life other than the stereotypical 'duck face' pouts and buffed up shots. Think- how do I want a stranger to perceive me?

- Pictures can tell a thousand lies, as the saying pics are not and should not be a substitute for the real relationships. Don't hide behind your online profile. Meet people and communicate face to face to build confidence and network!

- Reflect on your need to post a lot of Selfies, ask yourself 'what is my aim?' what do I want to get out of this? ...maybe you need to fulfil yourself in other ways to gain confidence. Think about what maybe lacking in your life?

- Don't base comments and likes on your self worth and popularity have other qualities other than your looks. It means so much more to get a pat on the back for something you have achieved other than what you were born with.

If you would like to add your thoughts on this topic, please use the comments section below. You may also be interested in the 'Selfies' lesson plan available to E-safety Support Premium and Premium Plus members

Written by Vicki Dan on April 17, 2014 17:13

Self cyber bullying: A new form of self harm?

Despite the growing influence of the internet in our daily lives it comes as a surprise that self harm now occurs through the use of social media according to recent findings. With cyber bullying being a worrying precursor to young people’s distress and even suicide, there has been an interesting twist where young people are now self cyber bullying as a method of self harm.

Teenagers in particular have been known to create anonymous accounts on social media sites and post self degrading messages to their own page as a means of self harming. Ellie 17 (not her real name) is an example of a teenager who took such actions. “The posts would say things like I was ugly, I was useless, I wasn't loved… all the stuff in my head. If I saw it in black and white coming from 'other people' I knew it must be true” said Ellie. Another form of self cyber bullying also included posting questions on sites to provoke a reaction and in turn welcome cruel answers from other users. Questions like “do you think I’m attractive?” resulted in the expected abuse! Self cyber bullying has also been seen as a masked cry for help according to MARC (Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre) where people post abuse in order to draw attention from adults and friends on the site to enlist support and perhaps sympathy. Statistics from MARC state that 23% of students self cyber bullied once a month, 28% one or two times a year and 49% infrequently exhibited this behaviour.

One of the most recent cases of cyber bullying occurred when 14 year old Hannah Smith from Leicestershire caused death by suicide after receiving a barrage of abuse on the question and answer site, which allows users to post questions and answers anonymously. Users would taunt Smith about her weight, the death of her uncle and urged her to harm herself. The power of anonymity on such sites can be argued to escalate the problem of cyber bullying where users have the power to post disturbing messages whilst disguising their identity.

However new findings of the tragic case of Smith have shown worrying links to the emergence of self cyber bullying. It has been reported that 98% of the harmful messages were allegedly posted by Smith herself and only four of the abusive messages came from other IP addresses. We cannot make assumptions at this point about the reality of the situation as there are still many unknown details. That said, if this is a fact then what does this say about the power of self cyber bullying? What is driving so many young people to self harm in this way?

The power of the internet and social media is not new but is still hard for many to grasp the insidious manner in which it creeps into people’s lives with the possibility of anonymity, quick spread of information and overriding influence in young people’s lives (as well as adults too). The art of expressing negative feelings in unique ways is nothing new as proposed by freelance writer Nina Funnell. ‘Teens have always had a propensity to document their negative self-talk and self-loathing in one form or another, often in journals, angst-ridden poetry and other forms of art.’ As such she argues that teenagers have always shared their pain to elicit an emotional response such as sympathy or empathy, from the public. The key difference is that the actions now take place online, and, to an extent, where help may not be as forthcoming. Perhaps rather than blaming the internet we must educate more children, teenagers and parents on the pros and cons of the internet and work with people to engender more self regulation and to manage their self hatred in healthier and safer ways. And with the rising problem of self cyber bullying this must be tackled soon, as ‘sometimes the cruellest things a teen will ever hear are the comments they say to themselves’ as emphasised by Funnell.

Written by Jennifer McLeod - Step Up! International on February 19, 2014 16:53

NekNominate: The latest online craze

BottlesLast week we became far too familiar with a new online term – NekNominate. For those new to this, NekNominate is an online drinking game which involves the participant drinking a large amount of alcohol as part of a challenge and then nominating someone else to continue the game.

Unfortunately we were alerted in the media to this craze due to some tragic stories, where the prank had gone too far.

To try to understand why this was becoming such a popular phenomenon, I spoke to 2 young people who had both recently completed their NekNomination and interestingly, neither drank alcohol.

The first nominee chose to drink a smoothie concoction consisting of several different ingredients which, when combined made the drink particularly unpleasant (but nevertheless alcohol free). When she had been nominated, she knew she didn’t want to involve alcohol, but wanted to take up the challenge some other way, so instead decided to go for something amusing. She never felt pressurised to involve alcohol and would have been happy had her nominee felt the same.

The second student (of a similar age) took a slightly different approach – instead of drinking large volumes of alcohol, she instead pretended that her drink was made up of wines and spirits, while all along it was really apple juice. She felt the pressure from her peers to complete the task stating that “it can’t end with me” and also to “do something impressive”. So seemingly drinking a vast amount of alcohol (or at least, pretending to) was her choice. The conversation then took an interesting turn when she claimed that she had then “earned the right” to nominate someone else.

So, while both students handled their nomination differently, it seems that the common theme was the need to compete – the first to make the challenge funnier, while the second to make it more impressive than the last – alcohol or no alcohol. Both students agreed that had they thought of something that didn’t involve drinking at all, but was suitably funny/impressive, they would have happily done that instead.

NekNomination appears to have gathered momentum over the last few days, making it more and more attractive to young people to get involved. The tragic cases seem to be lost in the thrill of taking part. However, there are stories emerging where people have developed their own way of taking up the challenge (giving food to the homeless for example). So while the craze will be difficult to prevent, perhaps those who are prepared to make it their own and do something more creative are the ones who will be able to change the nature of NekNomination.

If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, please use the comments section below

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on February 13, 2014 23:10

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