Last Updated on 24th November 2023

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Tory: Hello and welcome to Safeguarding Soundbites, where we bring you the latest online safeguarding news. I’m Tory…

Tyla: …And I’m Tyla. This week, we’re talking about how Discord are making their platform ‘hostile’ for abusers, the impact of AI chatbots on young people, youth vaping consultations, and our remarkable Safeguarding Success story of the week.

Tory: First up Tyla, let’s check in with what’s been happening on social media.

Tyla: Well, our social media story today revolves around Discord, a popular platform with over 150 million monthly active users globally. They’ve recently teamed up with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to combat the spread of child sexual abuse imagery on their platform.

Tory: That’s right. The IWF are an organisation in the UK who aim to remove online child sexual abuse imagery. In a joint effort, Discord and the IWF are working to make the platform ‘hostile’ to abusers and predators.

Tyla: As part of this collaboration, Discord has joined the group of ‘trusted flaggers’ for the IWF. This means they can quickly report any suspected child sexual abuse imagery they find directly to the IWF’s hotline for rapid assessment.

Tory: This move is part of Discord’s commitment to safeguarding against criminal imagery on their platform and has been praised by Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF. Speaking about the collaboaration, she emphasised the importance of working together in order to combat the spread of this kind of imagery.

Tyla: Absolutely. Online safety is a shared responsibility, and collaborations like these play a crucial role in creating a safer internet for all.

Tory: Now Tyla, we’re on to a topic that has been incredibly popular in 2023; AI.

Tyla:That’s right, we’ve been talking about AI a lot recently.

Tory: According to Nominet’s annual Digital Youth Index, over half of young people in the UK have been using AI chatbots in the last year. It seems AI isn’t just helping them with schoolwork but also with things like sending emails or getting jobs.

Tyla: That’s a modern twist to getting homework help… The survey of 4,000 people aged eight to twenty-five asked young people if they had ever used or would consider using AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Snapchat AI, Google Bard, Bing Chat, or any other AI-powered chatbot.

Tory: Interestingly, thirty two percent had not heard of ChatGPT , however Snapchat AI was the most likely platform to have been used among the group of young people at thirty six percent. Like many of us, those surveyed were curious about how to incorporate ai chatbots into their lives. Although, 54% are also concerned about the impact AI may have on jobs in the future.

Tyla: It’s a love-hate relationship with our robot pals. Nominet’s CEO, Paul Fletcher, sees the silver lining, he recently said that “It’s encouraging to see young people embracing technology so quickly and using it in their daily lives.”

Tory: If you take a second to think about it, technology is now integrated into every aspect of our lives. From the classroom, to the supermarkets to our homes. So, it’s no surprise that young people are leveraging AI chatbots for their school and work tasks.

Tyla: It’s true, but it raises the concern of how exactly this impacts on the traditional roles of parents and teachers in supporting their children’s education?

Tory: Yeah it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, AI chatbots can provide additional support, especially in subjects where students might struggle. On the other hand, it’s crucial for parents and teachers to ensure that these tools are used responsibly and that they don’t replace the essential human connection.

Tyla: And of course, we know that this ‘essential human connection’ is the reason why some young people would use chatbots. They may turn to chatbots at a time when they feel lonely, or like they have no one else to turn to, or perhaps when they want to explore their feelings with someone who won’t judge.

Tory: This is exactly it – so that’s why we, as parents, carers and safeguarding professionals need to have open and honest conversations with the children and young people in our care about the use of AI chatbots. We should emphasise that these tools are aids, not replacements for the guidance and support that a trusted adult can provide. Teachers, too, can integrate discussions about responsible AI use into their classrooms.

Tyla: Absolutely. Now Tory, if someone wanted a little more advice and guidance on having these conversations, where could they go?

Tory: They could read our article and shareable called Using AI Chatbots for Good which can be found in the Safer Schools NI App or by heading to saferschoolsni.co.uk.

Tory: On to another popular topic from this year…Vaping.

Tory: The Department of Health and Social Care are now seeking public input on youth vaping through a consultation that aims to explore the possibility of ‘creating a smokefree generation’.

Tory: These measures have generated widespread support right across the four corners of the UK, with the Welsh government, Scottish government, and the Northern Ireland Department of Health all giving it their backing and agreeing to a joint consultation.

Tyla: Smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable illness and death in the UK, claiming the lives of up to two-thirds of lifelong users. However, the consultation also addresses youth vaping. Although selling vapes to children is already illegal in Northern Ireland, recent surveys reveal that children here have tried them. According to the Northern Ireland Young Person’s Behaviour and Attitudes Survey in 2022, twenty-one-percent of 11 to 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland reported having used an e-cigarette at least once.

Tory: Those are some staggering figures. The consultation includes proposals to restrict child-friendly flavours and brightly-coloured packaging for vapes, aiming to reduce appeal, affordability, and availability to children. Vaping, especially due to nicotine content, poses health risks and could lead to lifelong addiction for children.

Tory: This is an opportunity for everyone, regardless of age, to make their voices heard by submitting responses to the consultation which is open until 6 December 2023.

Tyla: To have your say in this crucial matter, you can access and respond to the consultation at www.pha.site/smokefreeconsultation. And don’t forget, for more detailed information, you can check out our Youth Vaping article in the safer schools ni app or by heading to saferschoolsni.co.uk.

Tyla: And now for our Safeguarding Success Story of the week

Tyla: Earlier in this episode, we spoke about the role of the Internet Watch Foundation in tackling child sexual abuse material (also known as CSAM) and removing it from the internet. Well, they have recently developed a new tool that allows police around the world to scan for known abuse imagery in just seconds.

Tory: It’s an absolute game-changer in the fight against illegal child sexual abuse imagery. In partnership with the digital forensics company, I hope im pronouncing this correctly, Cyacomb, the IWF has developed what they’re calling a “Contraband Filter.”

Tyla: That’s right. They’ve taken the digital fingerprints, known as hashes, of 1.7 million of the most horrific child sexual abuse images and turned them into this secure-by-design Contraband Filter.

Tory: And the success here is that this filter can be used by law enforcement worldwide to identify these illegal files on suspect devices faster and more reliably than ever before.

Tyla: And of course the sooner it can be identified, the sooner the victim gets the protection and support they deserve. It’s a big win for safeguarding efforts globally.

Tory: So, listeners, Tyla and I are off to start our christmas shopping.

Tyla: One of us is – I’’ll probably leave mine to christmas eve.

Tory: We’ll be back again next week with more safeguarding news, updates and advice.

Tyla: Until next time –

Both: Stay safe.

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