More light shines on social network sites

An excellent report came out late last week.  The project behind the production of the report was led by the  NSPCC and Mumsnet with Professor Sonia Livingstone acting as an adviser. The release of the report was timed to coincide with the launch of a campaign called “Share Aware – help your child stay safe on social networks”

The campaign launch in turn was supported by the release of  three interesting, new and useful resources:

  • a guidance note addressed to parents  of eight to 12 year olds briefing them on the shortcomings and strengths of a number of different social networking platforms, and providing useful talking points to help parents get the right kind of conversation started with their kids
  • two cartoon videos – one with a girl character in the lead and one with a boy – warning about the dangers of making and sharing inappropriate material
  • research findings detailing the views of nearly 2,000 youngsters  on the social networking sites that were looked at in the course of the research  and disclosing, for example that 1 in 20  5 – 7 year olds who go online  have a social network profile, as do 1 in 5  8- 11 year olds  and 7 out of 10  12-15 year olds.

Sonia Livingstone has written a great commentary on the research. I  doubt I can improve upon it  so I won’t try. For me one of the more important takeaways  was just how little parents knew about the range and variety of social networking platforms that are now available online. Facebook is not the only one and some of the web sites that are out there in this space and are used by  many children really do need to sharpen up their act or leave the business altogether.

The internet is here to stay. It is inextricably linked to the warp and weft of 21st Century living. Finding new and better way of reaching out to parents to help them help their kids deal with it remains one of the greatest challenges facing all of us who work in this area.

Neither is it safe to assume that this is simply a temporary or transitional phase we are going through. When today’s net savvy youngsters become parents  they’ ll know exactly what to do to make sure their kids are ok online. Wrong. If you have not learned how to ride a bike yourself you can never really teach anyone else how to do it.