Fun, friendship, but unfortunately..danger.

(First ever blog guys, please don’t be too harsh)

The window for something like this has been left wide open since the phenomenon of social networking has begun, and it now needs to be firmly shut. The story of the “paedo postman” from Cornwall, as some tabloids have labelled him, sends a cold chill down ones spine.

Michael Williams is in my opinion nothing short of a disgusting monster, something a functional society simply cannot contain. Some may be believe he can be eventually fixed through years even decades of treatment? I do not share that view at all. Cyber-stalking unsuspecting child victims, he is reported in the online BBC News article to have “groomed them, asked some to perform sex acts over a webcam and arranged to meet others before abusing them.” And what did Williams use as his tool to commit this most shocking of crimes? What was his weapon of mass destruction? The same social networking sites we all use to catch-up with one another, post a few photographs from nights out, it all seems so safe..how wrong we are.

In “reality” as we might call it, everyday life, children would never be left so vulnerable to a threat like this. Imagine a crowded street, could someone get away with doing anything like what Williams did to these children? “inciting sexual activity, grooming..” Of course not! Everyone is there, everyone is watching, it’s a public place. What we don’t seem to realise is that social networking sites are becoming the new public places, everyone is there….but no one seems to be watching? And even if they are, detection of people like Williams is extremely difficult. They simply delete a profile, and create a new one, though the two profiles may be completely different, the person controlling them is not.

As children, we were taught a certain attitude to the real world by our parents and peers, to be vigilant in public, to not trust strangers, to not go somewhere where we might encounter trouble, these lessons should just as firmly be applied to our young when exploring the online world. Alongside “stop, look ,listen” there could be “exit, block, report abuse”? Equal danger requires equal caution.

I heard a police spokesperson on the radio, giving a statement claiming  the police force are now taking these cases more seriously and investigating them in a more straightforward and professional fashion. Even if these promises from an already criticised and further cut-back police force come true, is it really enough??

Ian Clampett

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3 Responses

  1. Well done on your first blog, Ian!

    I came across this story in the paper as well, and it really hit a nerve with me. It got me wondering if children should be educated about social networking sites from an early age, say at primary school. Facebook is becoming so popular and technology is always advancing and I think children should learn to use this technology properly and safely. Especially since children as young as nine are using these sites.
    All children now get ‘Stranger Danger’ lessons at primary and I think part of the teaching should be about strangers on the web. If parents are going to allow their children to use these sites, they should also be aware of the privacy settings and the dangers that are associated with them.
    I wonder if any primary school’s are taking the initiative and teaching their children about these sites – it could be quite a fun but worth while lesson.

    Julia

  2. This is being taught in primary school now Julia. My daughter had it in Primary 7 as part of a ‘Keeping Myself Safe’ incentive. The teachings were built around a serious of scenarios involving everything from domestic abuse to peer pressure. It was done using animation for each scenario and the one for online safety covered a young girl talking to a stranger (posing as a boy her age) online. When she went to meet him an adult male appeared and said he was the boy’s dad, that the boy was unwell and would she go with him to their house to see him.
    Also, can I just add that parental responsibility should be paramount for children using the internet. I am emailed an activity reprt weekly which lists every single website Isla has visited. In addition to that I have her passwords for each social networking site she uses, even horse and hobby sites. Basically everything where she may interact. I check each one every night and it takes 10 minutes before I go to bed.

    Lisa.

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