Hardly a month goes by without another online safety campaign. Some are better than others but too many have one thing in common; they’re all about raising awareness of the risk and threats. They should be about credible tactics to employ to make themselves safer on specific social media sites.
Children tell us that everybody delivers generic messages about the nature of the threat, but what they need is an understanding of specific safety measures applicable to sites such as Snapchat, Ask.fm, Facebook and Twitter. Too many police services remain seduced by the word ‘cyber’ and focus their strategies on malware coders, attacks and hacking, when the reality is reflected in recent police figures. More are threatened, harassed and harmed via cyberbullying, threats to kill and sexually motivated communication.
The police need to see this as a routine crime. The greatest impact it can have on the behaviour of such offenders is to track them down and hold them to account through the criminal justice system. Too few people are prosecuted for these offences and there is no visible deterrent.
This must become as routine to police as the advice and warning they might give outside a pub or club in any street.
As for parents, any parent not online needs to spend the time to learn the specifics about safety settings and privacy, blocking and reporting, how to report crime and where to go to get help when they need it.
Most information they need is available, but too many still outsource their responsibility.
Your children, your responsibility, your turn to step up.
A report by Jim Gamble, former head of CEOP and current Chief Executive of INEQE Safe and Secure. Originally published in the Belfast Telegraph, May 13th 2014.