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Simfin

online safety and digital citizenship specialist

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What does resilience look like?

05.08.19

I will always believe that social media is too easily blamed for society's woes. Social media is about support, guidance, community, compassion, learning, sharing, creativity and about equality and equity.

That said, my work takes me to dark places on social media pretty much every day. I see bullying, harassment, intimidation, stalking, racism, sexism, homophobia, depression, self harm and suicide. I see the very worst of people, and schools and organisations look to me for guidance and support.

 Too often the focus is in the wrong places. Those of you who have heard me speak at events or attended my training sessions will know my mantra for years has been; 'Stop demonising children. Be the role models they need and deserve.'  Years ago I thought the answer was to focus on the very young children. Target and support the 5 year olds who are at the very beginning of their digital life and teach them to be positive and kind digital citizens. We know children aren't born racists or homophobic. These are learnt behaviours. Yet it has become clear that the world is populated by so many anti social adults - and undoubtedly, social media has provided a voice and a platform for those who wish to put down, criticise and destroy others.

I was mistaken in thinking the focus should be on the young - until we find a way to make adults strive to be role models the challenges will continue, and escalate, for ever. There are many analogies we could draw upon - cigarettes and alcohol are two. Until we removed smoking from public places, television and movies, there were too many smoking role models and ofcourse our young people would choose to smoke. If the only people who smoked cigarettes were those in care homes for the elderly it would be hard to imagine a world where teenagers would want to smoke to be like them.

So, we see adults of all ages who choose to abuse others online. The abuser/victim relationship takes all forms; male/female female/male, male/male female/female and the reasons are too complicated for me to make anything other than broad generalisations, which ultimately aren't much use.

 What is clear to me, at the time of writing, is that, I can't clean up the internet. I don't have a plan how to make all the bullies and abusers to become nice people - or to be quiet. This means that we need to look to ways to make the rest of us, the children in our care, more resilient. We need to nurture resilience so they can live in Instagram, Twitter, Gaming message channels, YouTube et al - and have strategies in place when the bad thing happens and the abuse lands in their timeline and inboxes. 

In my sessions I make reference to role models and those who show resilience in the face of haters and critics.

I talk about Jade Hameister and the ham and cheese sandwich. It's a great slide to share in schools and there's always a moment when the girls in the class smile and some boys look uncomfortable. It's a thing men do; begrudgingly accept that a female has some physical ability - but not like a real man.. 

I share this clip of Serena Williams annihilating men on the tennis court in response to the online poll where men were certain they could score a point against Serena Williams in a tennis match. Women may be at the top of their game - but not as good as men.

So we look to Megan Rapinoe addressing the US president and his use of Twitter. Trump clearly unable to respect a woman who will never succumb to his animal magnetism..

More recently I've also shared  PaladinAmber the female gamer and streamer who is confidently outing the males who send her the unwanted messages so many women experience across social media from gaming to Linkedin.  Twitch viewers harassed Aussie streamer PaladinAmber. She clapped back in the best way

And while we're talking about LinkedIn, here's another example of a confident and qualified woman who men feel a need to offer 'advice' to.

@geologiststephy and the man who thoughts about professional hair.

There's also Kate and Audrey, playing death metal in their home in a village in Japan,  without any concern about what others may think or say. My message to young people is always; 'be who you want to be. The opinions of other are not relevant. if they're not trusted friends or family then their comments, views and opinions are of no importance.

In simple terms; you're not pizza - not everyone will like you.

It feels like an achievable message and adults can help young people build their resilience and learn to ignore the comments of others. It's wasted energy and bullies and abusers are unlikely (ever?) to see the error of their ways and become better people. It's clear that the way to modify adults' behavior is through financial payment or the threat of incarceration - and even these are slow to have impact. We still see adults using their phones while driving and we still see adults driving under the influence - so what chance modifying their behaviour online? 

 But I have doubts. Is ignoring the abusive messages the answer? It is certainly an answer for the individual. Abusers are usually looking for a reaction and to be ignored will prompt them to move on to another victim. 

But.

This doesn't offer any solution in terms of wider society. By ignoring the perpetrator are we merely passing the problem on to their next victim?

 PaladinAmber shared today, on Twitter, abuse she had received; 'I'll add that this person.. said he'd like to murder me and hopes I get cancer...'

and I replied;

'It's an impotence and frustration with their own lives. When they get any kind of reaction, that's a result and a win. The best strategy is not to acknowledge them at all, ever'

My comment, at time of writing, has received 7 Likes.

PaladinAmber replied to me;

'absolutely not the way to go, people need to be called out and told hey this shit is fucked up, before they're banned and yeeted into time out.'

and this has received, 87 Likes which suggests that (let's not forget Boaty McBoatface and what happens when we look to the internet for opinion) more people think responding to abusers publicly is a better strategy than ignoring them.

 

What PaladinAmber and the others are doing is very important and in each case the world has stopped for a moment and taken notice. This leads me to question; am I wrong to advocate building resilience by encouraging young people to develop the self control to never respond to hateful and unwanted comments and attention on social media? 

 

But what about the other people? The one's without the skills, the talent, the innate self confidence to physically and emotionally stand up to their online abusers? Are we to suggest that we teach our children to engage in abusive dialogue which will undoubtedly escalate?

 

I suspect we need to do both. I share examples with young people of those like Jade and Megan Rapinoe as role models so that they can see strong and confident people who believe in themselves. I also encourage them to know when to remain silent online. The power of ignoring a post can not be underestimated. The person who sends the message sits waiting for your response. They've intended to upset you and they're waiting for the reaction. By failing to reply they have a silence, they've been ignored and, is anything more humiliating and belittling than that?

 

All I know is; until we find a way to nurture confident, creative and resilient digital citizens we will continue to be firefighting incidents of self harm, depression and suicide.

 

 

Murder in Slow Motion

03.05.19

 I was asked by a local authority, following the brutal murder of a young woman, to develop a course for front line colleagues to help them provide support for victims of digitally assisted stalking.

I have delivered the course many times in recent months and the feedback from delegates has been overwhelmingly positive.

The course covers a range of themes including the urgent need to help people develop strategies to survive the pressures and challenges of  relationships in a digital age.

I feel this is such an important area that I have chosen to share the following practical guidance with you.

Let me know what you think.

 

Guidance for victims of cyberstalking and those who support them


Abusers Are Not Mind Readers


Abuse victim’s can often feel as though they are losing their mind. Abusers will seem to mysteriously know personal and intimate details about the victim’s life. Abusers will use technology to invade and control the victim’s home and online life. This control can be stopped if the victim receives, and acts upon, practical and informed advice and guidance.

Abusers gain information about their victim via:


• People
• Social media
• Technology

Assume:
• There is a GPS tracker in their car.
• There is spyware on their phone, smart watch, tablet, computer.
• There are cameras and microphones hidden in everyday objects in the victim’s home.

GPS tracker: This may be a GPS tracker or a mobile phone. The abuser will almost certainly need access to the vehicle to retrieve and charge the device. Ensure the abuser does not have access to the vehicle.


Spyware on the phone: This will record video, photos, voice, all text and messages in all apps, and social media. It will also share search history and password changes. Do not discuss the abuser in presence of, or via, the phone.


To remove spyware; factory reset device and change all passwords. Use two factor authentications to receive notifications if accounts are accessed by abuser.


After the factory reset set up a white list on the phone. This means only approved numbers can call.

Password protect the phone.


Notify all friends and colleagues about the abuser and ensure they do not allow them access to victim’s online and social media presence.
Cameras and microphones will be in the home in everyday objects including smoke alarms, clock radios, cuddly toys, air fresheners etc. there are two types of devices; Leave Behind and Wi-Fi.


Leave Behind record video, image and sound in the device. This means the abuser must go into the home to retrieve the device and the recordings.


Wi-Fi devices will record image, video, sound and live stream in real time to any device, anywhere in the world. This means the abuser can watch and listen live, at any time on a phone, tablet or computer. These devices will almost certainly be connected to the victim’s home Wi-Fi. To disable these devices, change the router/modem and Wi-Fi passwords.

Check list

• Factory reset your phone.
• Change home Wi-Fi and router passwords.
• Check for monitoring and tracking devices in your home, your bags and your car or bike.
• Change passwords and do not use the same password for everything.
• Check privacy settings on social networking sites and limit the amount of information you share.
• Notify all friends and family who may be used by your stalker to track and harass you.
• Screen shot evidence.
• Store all evidence in multiple locations including cloud and with trusted contacts.
• Be aware of geo-location and tagging on social networking sites and ensure that this is disabled on your phone and tablet.
• Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.
• Report stalking to website administrators.

Further support

FightCyberstalking.org Toolkit 
Palladin National Stalking Advocacy Service 
Get safe Online 
Revenge Porn Helpline 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 0808 802 0300 
Suzy Lamplugh Trust 
The Alice Ruggles Trust 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil

14.04.18

Facebook's Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg spent two days this week facing questions from U.S. lawmakers and what have we learned?
We’ve learned that very few demonstrated more than a limited understanding of Facebook and social media.

We also learned that Zuckerberg had been very clearly briefed on how to present himself, and the information Facebook was willing to share.

We also learned that the rest of us tech savvy social media experts reacted, not by uttering; ‘The horror, the horror’ but smugly posting gifs, videos and images mocking Mr Z and grampa senator.


Mr Z had the confidence of one of the world’s richest men. He had the confidence of one of the world’s most ‘powerful’ men. He had the confidence which comes from controlling a company that has, stealth- like, permeated all areas of our lives, across the globe and now has the capacity and capability to destroy any one of us. But let’s keep smirking at how funny he looks. Hey, he looks like that guy from Star Trek, be sure to like and share my observational humour.


If the worst that has happened is we’ve mocked how he looks I’m sure Mr Z will feel he’s a had a pretty good week.


I honestly don’t know if Zuckerberg is an evil Bond villain or naively thinks he can make the world a better place
What I do know is; we should stop complaining that he has our data. We gave it to him.


We knew what would happen years ago and like Pinocchio at Pleasure Island, we have loved every minute of our online hedonism.
Zuckerberg is no different from the rest of the liars and deceivers who we vote as leaders, reward as gods and trust like fools.
Oh, and stop saying ‘If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.’
Why would you think paying for a service means the company treats you with respect? Do you think John Lewis cares so much about the spirit of Christmas that it spends millions on a short movie to ensure you feel the warm glow of generosity induced debt?

No.

The purpose of the John Lewis Christmas advertisement is to make you feel better about buying one of their kettles or jumpers.


Do you think Ikea cares about you as a family and that is why they gave you a Family Loyalty card?

Nej.

They know if you turn up at their store with partner and kids there is every chance you will buy more, and this will easily offset that very generous free coffee they promised each of you.

Sainsbury’s gives me points and discounts not because they’re thinking ‘Let’s make the fella smile.’ Every voucher, every email and every in-store display is designed to make me spend more than I have spent previously – and my Nectar card tells them exactly what I’ve purchased, the frequency and time of day.

So, don't tell me that paying for something makes a corporation respect me.


But what about the deceit? Much has been made of Zukerberg’s avoidance of truth when answering about data collection, tracking and profiling.
But he’s not the first company and individual to lie and betray our trust.. or treat us like mugs.


What about Volkswagen and fuel emissions?
For almost my entire life the Volkswagen brand has been one of trust, integrity, safety and responsibility. Turns out, they’ve lied to us for years. 
Not only did the company lie about the emissions it eventually became clear that the cars were configured to give false readings when the wheels were turning, but the car wasn’t moving, on a rolling road. That’s deliberate deception and lies.


Or perhaps we could look to our own politicians. Whether we look to Blair and WMD or more recently The Brexit Bus. Did the world stop? Were politicians sent to prison? No, and we did nothing.


Or we could look at the charismatic Richard Branson who said he would sue the NHS. Have any of us given up our Virgin products and services?

'I'll never ride on a Virgin train again, or fly in one of his planes. What he’s done to the NHS is ... disgusting’ - said nobody.


Or Brendan Cox? If ever there was a symbol of integrity and compassion, then surely it is he? 


Or Oxfam, handing out care and compassion with one hand and caught with their trousers down exploiting the very victims and people they are there to save.

Look at our sporting heroes, Olympians, cyclistscricketers,  so many cheats, deceivers and liars.

Why should Mark Zuckerberg be any different? What he knows is; morality and ethics no longer matter – they probably never did.

 

Why should he care about our privacy when we don’t care at all?

What's the Point of Safer Internet Day?

05.02.18

This is a blog post for parents, for adults, for adults who are parents, and those who work with young people.

The point of SID is, one would hope, fairly obvious; to help young people stay safe online. We could add that we would like them to thrive online. To be safe, confident, creative and compassionate digital citizens. Across many parts of the world on Tuesday 6 February, Safer Internet Day, schools and organisations that work with young people will be sharing safe messages, and engaging young people in activities, to raise their awareness of the opportunities and challenges. I suppose, there will be some sessions for parents too.

After ten years working in the area of online safety it is clear to me that we need to focus our attention and support on the adults who are using social media, and specifically, though not exclusively, parents and carers.

So many adults criticise young people for their naïve and anti social behaviour on social media. They share scare stories of apps and sexual predators, examples of young people sexting and young people bullying. I suggest we pause for a moment and ask ourselves why young people behave in this way.

When we see headlines stating ‘Children as young as seven are sexting’  we could conclude that social media apps and services make children share sexualised images of themselves and other children. That’s a possibility, but doesn’t make much sense. Or we could conclude that, as society has evolved, children have become more aware of their sexuality at an ever younger age. Well, it’s a possibility I suppose.

Or, we could look to the behaviour of adults online. We could look to the celebrities who share sexualised images of themselves. Or.. we could look at ‘normal’ adults whose sexting is a part of normal sexual relationships 

If we accept that consenting adults are using social media to send sexual messages or content to each other then we can hardly be surprised that children, who aspire to be adults as soon as possible, will do the same. Generating sexualised images of children is an offence in the UK and as such we need to ensure our young people are aware of this. Similarly, the misery of such content being shared in a public arena, online, or at school for example, cannot be underestimated. Young people have been so ashamed and upset when their images are shared without permission with an unintended audience, have, in some cases, resorted to suicide.

Why would young people think it is normal to humiliate someone in this way? Well, we only need to look at the behaviour of adults who, motivated by revenge or malice, use websites and social media to share these private and intimate images and messages. It is hardly surprising then that young people will behave as adults do.

What can parents and carers do?

They can accept that sexting is, for many, a normal part of relationships and as such they need to help their children be aware of the dangers and provide strategies, and warnings, relating to how to sext more safely. This may sound counter intuitive and yet most of us recognised many years ago that we needed to provide youngsters with information relating to safe sex and healthy consensual and respectful relationships.

Parents may find this short video helpful

I’m regularly asked to talk to children in primary and secondary schools about online bullying. The schools are aware online bullying is taking place and hope that I will be able to give the young people information to stop this.

To be honest, I don’t share their optimism.

Children will listen, and it is conceivable that some children will act upon some of what I say. What we must do is; consider, why do young people bully each other online? Could it be that they see adults and older children bullying each other while playing games or using their social media services? Adults including celebrities will treat one and other, and celebrities, disgracefully at every online opportunity. We can see hateful comments on news sites as well as on social media including Twitter and Facebook 

As long as online bullying is seen as normal and acceptable behaviour we can hardly expect children to behave any differently.

What can parents and carers do?

As parents we spend every day of our children’s lives showing them how to be good, kind and considerate citizens. Whether we’re on a train, in a restaurant or at a public event, we continually remind our children to be considerate and tolerant citizens. We need, as parents, to show and share our social media streams with our children. Help them to understand how to relate, and engage with compassion and care, unlike the many heated and often offensive discussions we see in so many Facebook groups populated by adults and parents.

We read books to, and with, our children every night and perhaps we should do the same with our social media channels. This way we can start to develop digital young people who are considerate and empathetic digital citizens

Children will make mistakes.

They will let themselves, and you, down.

They’re just kids. They’re learning how to be adults.

As adults and parents our role is to recognise they will make mistakes. To help them through the often traumatic situation they’ve created and give them the love and confidence to learn from the experience, and move on. If we don’t do this then we have to ask ourselves; ‘Are we certain our child will never be so very unhappy and desperate that they take their own lfe?

What can parents and carers do?

We can recognise that, even though they’re our children, and we are the parents, we may not be the trusted adult when the Bad Thing happens. Remember when you were young and you did something that was so terrible that you were frightened to tell your parents?

Every child should have at least three trusted adults, other than their parents and class teacher. Often when the Bad Thing happens, the parent or teacher is the last person they want to tell. For this reason, I deliver training for lunch-time supervisors, librarians, cleaners and other adults who children may feel they can trust. It may be an older sibling, a friend’s parent, a neighbour or relative. Ensure your child knows who their trusted adults are, and make sure you know who they are too. As a parent I’m sometimes the last person to know when my daughters have had a challenging incident, and that’s okay, they have a network of others who can provide support and guidance, and I’m pretty much okay with that.

And finally, don’t forget to ask your children; ‘How are things online?’ Today, our young people have many complicated, challenging, supporting, competing realtionships in a way that many of us can hardly comprehend if we had a pre online childhood. Listen to you children. Share the apps. Speak with them from an informed and interested perspective.

Let's try a little more understanding and a little less criticism of our young people, and perhaps in future, the focus of Safer Internet Day will be about supporting parents to be the digital parents our children need and deserve.

I have a section on my site for parents

And a Facebook page for you

And a Twitter account

Oh and an Instagram account too

And you’ll find information for parents on the Safer Internet Site

Thank you for reading.

You can contact me here

Here to help

04.09.17

I hope you've had a restful and happy summer break and you spent time with family and friends. After over 30 years working in education, and supporting organisations who work with young people, I've come to a single conclusion; The only thing that truly matters is that we are kind and supportive to the people around us. Whether they are colleagues, students, family, friends or neighbours - everyone deserves kindness.

I've worked in the area of online safety for almost 10 years and I provide face to face support and training to schools, colleges, charities and a range of organisations with a responsibilty for young people. I also specialise in providing support, resources and information via social media. Over the summer break I shared a range of articles and links on subjects as diverse as radicalisation, fake news and the impact of social media on body image and mental health.

There were also more quirky links to digital citizenship. Did you know 30 million Facebook users have died in the first 8 years of its existence?

 Hurricane Harvey was the cause of wide spread devastation.. and fake news. There's that shark again.

Also, in August Safer Internet Day 2018's Theme was announced.

When we try to engage with young people, and help them to become safe and confident digital citizens, it is very important that our messages and resources are relevant and engaging. That's why I share these things with you.

You can be up to date and informed and relevent when you support young people by simply doing one or more of the following:

You could follow my tweets on Twitter

Or, Like or Follow my Facebook Page

Or perhaps you'd find my Instagram feed a little easier to digest?

It's possible you prefer the more formal world of LinkedIn, I post resources there too.

Or.. just go old school and visit the website

I'm here to help you. If you'd like me to come to your school or organisation around Safer Internet Day 2018 then let me know, That's always a busy time for me and my diary does fill up quickly.

If you've yet to arrange your annual esafety update for your colleagues - I can help with that too.

People like you think my support has value

Take care out there

Simon

 

 

 

 

 

5 A Day

07.08.17

This morning I was invited to speak on BBC radio about the Children's Commissioner's 5 a Day campaign launched  6 August 2017.

There is a concern that children are spending too much time online (a study by Ofcom found that 5 year olds spend up to 15 hours each week on social media) and socialmedia companies must become more responsible in the way they engage with young people.

The 5 a Day campaign suggests that there are five  elements of a positive socialmedia and online 'diet'.

Be Mindful

Connect

Give to Others

Get Creative

Be Active

To summarise the campaign; parents could look at ways in which they can help their child use social media in more positive ways. To be more resilient and not allow the negitivity of others to impact on their sense of self worth. To proactively look at ways to be positive and supportive of others. To use socialmedia to learn new skills and be more creative, and also to make time to be physically active and particpate in sports and outdoor activities.

Children will learn from their parents and emulate their behaviour - to some extent. Parents who participate in sports and play musical instruments are more likely to have children who see the positive benefits of such activities. Similarly if a parent is always checking their socialmedia streams on their phone in the home, at the park, the playground, then children will see this as normal behaviour and almost certainly use socialmedia in the same way.

Through my work I  see so many positive benefits of socialmedia engagement and it is undoubtedly the most useful resource available to me for my own professional development, and maintaining personal and professional relationships. The presenter asked me if socialmedia was 'bad for children's health.' My answer was that inevitably there will be physical issues around eye strain, posture, lack of exercise, sleep depriavation etc. yet ultimately I think 'Everything in moderation' is a useful maxim. Let's help our young people become positive, resilient, safe and creative citizens. To do this, first, we need parents to understand their role in demonstrating these attributes themselves.