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Survey calls for social media firms to protect young people


Survey calls for social media firms to protect young people

A survey of over 1,000 young people and mental health experts has concluded that social media companies’ responses to online bullying reports are “inadequate”.

The study, commissioned by child-focused groups YoungMinds and the Children’s Society, found that almost half (47%) of young people questioned had experienced some form of online abuse, with some even admitting it had driven them to suicidal thoughts.

Using written and spoken evidence of people’s experiences of using social media and experiencing online bullying, the researchers behind the study believe that young people feel social media sites are letting them down and should be both quicker and tougher in how they deal with perpetrators.

A 15-year-old female respondent to the survey claimed that social media sites take too long to deal with reports of online bullying. She argued that if something is reported then the site should “literally remove it straight away”.

It also appears that social media sites are not being vigilant enough in ensuring people are old enough to set up an account in the first place. Sites like Facebook and Twitter impose a minimum age of 13 to get an account started, but 61% of respondents to the survey said they opened their first account at age 12 or younger.

The inquiry was led by Conservative MP Alex Chalk, who accuses social media sites of “marking their own homework” in the way they deal with cyber bullying. Chalk has called for greater transparency and accountability among the main social media sites.

Chalk’s words were echoed by the chief executives of the Children’s Society and YoungMinds, who talked of the “inescapable” nature of cyber bullying and the link between regular social media use and depression and anxiety.

With more people becoming involved in social media by the day, online abuse is a growing problem and bullies are finding new ways to torment people using social media. A recent Australian article published by News.com.au discusses the growing trend of ‘finstas’* or fake Instagram accounts, which appear as though they are run by a person but post intimate and embarrassing content with the sole aim of humiliating somebody.

At Engage Web, we’ve also become aware of how bogus Facebook accounts can be used to cause misery, and have put together an eBook through the Online Learning Academy to help victims track down the individuals behind these troublemaking accounts.

John Murray

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