Hello and welcome to Safeguarding Soundbites, with me, Natalie.
And me, Tyla. If you’re looking for a podcast that sums up the week’s safeguarding and social media news…
And gives you quick top tips for keeping children and young people safer online…
Then you’ve come to the right place! This week, we’ll be discussing social media news, the furry community and our safeguarding success story of the week.
First up, what’s been going on in the world of social media news, Tyla?
There’s actually been a lot happening on social media this week, Natalie. Did you hear about WhatsApp?
Yes! WhatsApp have announced a change to their disappearing messages feature.
This feature currently allows users to send a message with a specific timer of 24 hours, 7 days, or 90 days before the message is deleted.
The change WhatsApp made this week will now give the recipient the option to save the message. The sender will be notified that someone in the chat wants to save the disappearing message and they can then decide whether to let the message disappear as planned or to set the message as saveable.
This hasn’t been rolled out everywhere yet and it’s a little unclear how this will work, but it seems like there could potentially be some safeguarding issues with this, don’t you think?
Yes, there really could be, especially if messages that contain private information or sexualised content can be saved. We haven’t been able to test this feature ourselves, but we will be keeping an eye on this.
Moving on, Snapchat has had a bit of a bad week judging by a bunch of 1-star reviews for the app. These reviews come after the introduction of Snapchat’s new feature, ‘My AI’. The chatbot hasn’t proved popular with users, with many complaining about the bot’s placement at the top of their chat window, it being able to access their location, and that the new AI feature isn’t optional.
There’s also been some reports of inappropriate interactions, with one user alleging that after posing as a 13-year-old girl, the AI chatbot gave her advice on how lie to her parents in order to meet up with an older man to lose her virginity. Since that incident, Snapchat says they have rolled out new tools including age filters to help keep My AI’s conversations more age appropriate.
Oof, that’s not great!
No, it’s really not!
Time will tell how effective the new Snapchat tools are but, in the meantime, users remain pretty unhappy with the changes – a whopping 75% of their app reviews in the last week have been one-star. This is compared to a previous app store rating review earlier this year in which only 35% of reviews were one-star.
Snapchat have also announced several other new features that will be added, including the indefinite sharing of location, the addition of chat communities, and an ‘after dark’ feature that will allow users to view late night snaps if they share their own. We’ll also be keeping an eye on all these features as they go live.
Over to Twitter now, who have introduced new labels on Tweets that contain possible violations of their hateful content policy.
Hateful content policy?
It’s just a way for Twitter to outline what they don’t agree with.
But they don’t stop the Tweet from going out on the platform?
Well previously, Tweets identified as breaking this policy have had their potential reach limited. Now they will also have a label that reads: “Visibility limited: this tweet may violate Twitter’s rules against hateful conduct.” They say they may also exclude such tweets from search results and timelines, limit replies, retweets, and other standard interactions.
Hmm… You know, Twitter has been criticised a lot lately, particularly since Elon Musk took over the platform and changed the way it is moderated and the rules around what hateful content looks like.
Yes – including a rule change earlier this month that removed the prohibition of misgendering and deadnaming people who are transgender.
That actually brings us on to the next thing I wanted to discuss. If you were listening last week, we talked about the new guidance for schools in England on gender identity that the government is considering introducing.
You can go back and listen for a bit more information, but it could mean changes such as schools having to tell parents if a pupil is questioning their gender identity.
Well, this week, many teachers and a teachers’ union have spoken out against the guidance, with concerns about how the new rules will impact pupils. Some teachers have warned that they will put young people at risk of harm and homelessness, with one headteacher accusing the government of creating an “atmosphere of fear” in which young people no longer felt they could turn to teachers for support.
It’s so important that children have somewhere to turn to for help. A new report released by The Internet Watch Foundation has found that the amount of child sexual abuse materials depicting extreme abuse has doubled since 2020. Materials that fall under category A abuse, the most severe kind, accounted for one in five online images found by the IWF last year. The charity found over 255,000 URLS containing images or videos of children suffering sexual abuse.
If you’re not familiar with The Internet Watch Foundation, or IWF, it’s an independent organisation that partners with members of the internet industry, like us, to make the online world safer.
The IWF also reported that they now have a record number of private companies helping them in the fight against online child sexual abuse material.
181 members have signed up to help tackle the spread, including smaller companies and big ones like Marriott International.
So, Tyla, what have we released this week?
This week, we released an article about the furry community.
The Furry community?
Yes – ‘Furries’ are people who have an active interest in animal characters with human characteristics. The community is often the subject of online rumours and hoaxes, particularly related to schools and pupils dressing up as animals, requesting litter boxes in the school toilets, and communicating with teachers by making animal noises.
Our online safety experts looked into these rumours, their sources, and other common misconceptions around the Furry community.
You can find this guidance and further safeguarding advice by visiting saferschoolsni.co.uk or by downloading our free Safer Schools NI App wherever you get your apps.
New figures from the Trussell Trust have shown that more than 95 children a day were in need of an emergency food parcel over the past year. The charity’s food banks have been helping more people in Northern Ireland than ever before, with approximately 26,000 families needing to use a food bank for the first time. Managers of foodbanks in Northern Ireland have called on the Executive to put in place the policies that will help tackle poverty here.
In other news, the National Bullying Helpline has warned of an increasing trend in children filming violence against their peers and then uploading the footage onto social media. Christine Pratt, the founder of the helpline says they are receiving an increased number of calls and are hearing of situations like these most weeks. She also said many parents are struggling to get their child’s schools to take the incidents seriously.
Many of the victims are aware that the attack is going to take place, finding out about the plan on social media. If you’re worried that the child or young person in your care is the victim of bullying, here are some quick top tips on what you can do.
Firstly, if you see something online, it is important not to get emotionally involved or retaliate. This could actually escalate the situation and make it worse for your child.
Also, don’t ban them from accessing social media as this will likely feel like a punishment and might even dissuade them from confiding in you again in the future.
Try to stay as calm as you can around your child – panicking, getting upset or angry might make them feel unheard or judged. In this situation, they will need your love and reassurance that you will work through this together.
If there has been violence or threats of violence, make sure to contact the police immediately, as well as the school.
You can get further help and advice by contacting the National Bullying Helpline on 0300 323 0169 or visit their website at nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk.
Now – moving onto something great but perhaps surprising!
There are new findings from a report into the reading habits of pupils across the UK and Ireland. , The What Kids are Reading Report found that the number of books children read increased by almost a quarter last year.
And interestingly, social media seems to have played a part in that increase, with researchers discovering that social media trends, such as book reading communities on TikTok, actually helped create interest and engagement in particular books.
Great news! And speaking of great news, let’s end today’s episode with our safeguarding success story of the week! Natalie?
I love this story, Tyla! US charity National Down Syndrome Society and Barbie creators Mattel have teamed up to launch their first Barbie with Down syndrome. The doll was designed to reflect physical traits common in women with Down syndrome, including a shorter frame and longer torso. The new doll is the latest release in the Barbie Fashionistas line, which also includes a Barbie who uses a wheelchair and a Barbie with a prosthetic leg.
What a great way to include positive representation for everyone!
That’s everything from us for this week. From the both of us, thank you for listening. Remember you can follow us on social media by searching for Safer Schools NI. You can also download our Safer Schools NI App for free right now to find loads of resources, guidance and support on keeping children and young people safer online.
Until next time, have a great week and stay safe!
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