Natalie: Hello and welcome back – or if you’re new here, welcome to Safeguarding Soundbites, the podcast that brings you all the week’s online safeguarding news, alerts and advice. This week, Tyla and I will be chatting about the Reddit protests, the Online Safety Bill and more….Tyla, do you want to start us off with our regular round-up of social media news?
Tyla: Thanks, Natalie! Yes, there’s not been much happening in terms of social media updates this week. WhatsApp have released a new
feature that automatically mutes calls from unknown numbers. This is a turn-on option for users and has been released to help combat spam calls. The ‘missed call’ alert will still show up in notifications and in a user’s call list, but the call itself will be silenced.
Natalie: I could see this being a useful feature for anyone who is getting spam calls as part of being bullied or harassed.
Tyla: Yes and also spam calls from scammers and marketing companies.
So apart from that update on WhatsApp, the main social media site hitting the headlines this week is Reddit.
Natalie: Which is a bit unusual…well, maybe not recently with everything that’s going on over there but certainly not a social media platform we discuss often during Safeguarding Soundbites.
Tyla: That’s very true! You say “everything that’s going on over there” – do you want to give our listeners – and me! – a quick round-up of what’s been happening with Reddit recently and then why it’s in the news now? Also, why it might be a concern for our listeners who are parents and carers?
Natalie: Sure! So Reddit recently announced that they making updates to their API pricing structure.
Tyla: To their what-now?
Natalie: I think there’s probably been a major spike in google searches for ‘what is an API’ over the last few weeks! It’s basically technical jargon for how two or more computer systems request and receive data. So, in this situation, although the company Reddit has its own app for people to use, there are also loads of other apps for
using Reddit that have been created by other people (or third parties). Lots of Reddit users prefer using these apps to browse Reddit over the official app. It might be because they prefer the way it looks, they find it easier to use, it’s what they’ve always used and it’s also been reported that it’s much easier to use for people who use screen readers.
Tyla: And that would be people who have difficulties accessing online content visually or physically – so if someone is blind or if someone has dyslexia?
Natalie: Yes, there’s all sorts of reasons why someone might prefer using a screen reader. But yes, the API is essentially when the third-party app requests data from Reddit and Reddit sends it back. Each time this happens, it’s called a query. And Reddit is now planning on charging for anything over 100 queries a minute.
Tyla: I’m guessing that’s not a lot of queries if you have a lot of users – meaning it’s going to cost these other apps a lot?
Natalie: Exactly. And due to these upcoming API costs, many, if not all, of the big third-party apps have announced they can’t realistically continue to function and will be closing their app services come the changes on the first of July.
Tyla: Okay! Thank you for explaining that. So what’s happening now in terms of safeguarding concerns?
Well, in response, users have been protesting. And one of the ways moderators of subreddits have been protesting is to change their settings to ‘not safe for work’ which is for users 18+. For a variety of
reasons, including that users will be less likely to visit their favourite subreddits if they’re full of pornographic content, rather than posts about their favourite football team, this is aiming to hit Reddit in their profits.
Tyla: Right, I see where the concern comes in now – we have young people who will be visiting the platform now potentially being exposed to this content – whether that’s pornographic content, profanity, violence…
Natalie: Yes. And on Reddit, you just have to click a button agreeing you’re over 18 to view content or subreddits marked as ‘18 plus’.
Tyla: Not the best age verification system….
Natalie: Nope! So we’re advising that younger users avoid Reddit for a while. Also that parents and carers consider having a conversation about the importance of that ‘not safe for work’ warning. And importantly, what to do if they see content that upsets or worries them, such as coming to talk to them about it or talk to one of their trusted adults about it.
Tyla: Okay. And we’ll maybe come back to this topic next week, Natalie, if there’s any updates?
Natalie: Sounds like a good idea. Okay, moving on now. Tyla, you have an Online Safety Bill update for us?
Tyla: I do, yes. Just a quick one! So this new piece of legislation, called The Online Safety Bill, is designed to reduce or prevent harm or damage coming to people when they’re online, basically to make the internet safer for everyone, including children. It will create new
laws around things like protecting children from pornography, abuse, child sexual exploitation etc.
This week, there’s been some new amendments put forward to the government as the Bill goes through its stages to becoming law. One of the amendments would allow researchers to still be able to access data from platforms that they use to monitor harmful behaviour on those platforms.
And the government has also been urged to add amendments that would strengthen age-checking and require Ofcom to provide a code of practice on preventing violence against women and girls. These suggested changes are being supported by groups like the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the NSPCC and the Molly Rose Foundation.
Natalie: Brilliant, thank you Tyla, we will watch this space, as it were! And for anyone who wants more information on The Online Safety Bill and what it is, you can head to our website saferschoolsni.co.uk and search for the online safety bill to read our guide to the bill. A new survey has shown that almost half of young people here in Northern Ireland want to leave the country. An extensive survey by think tank Pivotal found that only 54.8% of young people here see a future for themselves, with just over 40% saying they plan to leave to find work or for further study. Just under 70% said they want a new integrated school system to help move the country forward. Overall, the survey showed that our young people want better job opportunities, a more integrated society and a greater effort to tackle paramilitary influence and drugs.
Tyla: Wow, that’s quite sad, really, that young people might feel they have to move awa
Natalie: It is and I hope we move towards that future they want: better job opportunities, more integration and a safer society all round.
And for our safeguarding success story of the week, we want to welcome the new Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People. Chris Quinn Having previously served as director of the NI Youth Forum and with his important part in setting up Belfast City Council’s first Youth Council, we look forward to seeing Mr Quinn in his new role helping to safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people in Northern Ireland.
Natalie: Great, thank you! Congrats and best wishes to Chris. Okay, that’s everything from us this week – we’ll be back next week with a special edition just in time for the summer break!
Tyla: Yep, we’ll be having a special end-of-the-school year-round up and talking about some top tips for summertime, on topics like screen time and online challenges.
Natalie: Until then, remember you can download the Safer Schools NI App for free right now on your phone or device’s app store. You can also give us a follow on our socials by searching for Safer Schools NI. Thank you for listening and…
Both: Stay safe!
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