Two items caught my eye this week:

  • An item by Gillian Martin (MSP) drawing attention to the issue of youngsters sending inappropriate images on social media.
  • A feature on Sky News about youngsters becoming lazier, more demanding and more rude as a result of ‘Siri’ and ‘Alexa’ type applications

They were particularly interesting because Tuesday next week is ‘safe internet’ day and we will be running activities with our junior classes about some of the dangers associated with the use of ICT.  Teaching youngsters to use technology safely is very much a child rights issue:

  • the right  to an education
  • the right to be safe from exploitation
  • the right to access information

It also brings into sharp focus a rights conflict – the right to privacy vs the need for adults to guide and support children.

‘Sexting’ was discussed at the recent Parent Council meeting.  I was very clear that we as parents/teachers needed to stop viewing the behaviours as being ‘harmless banter’ and ‘kids just being kids’ and begin to refer to it in the same way as we might refer to it in terms of sexual harassment.  I am in little doubt that much of what we deal with under the heading of ‘sexting’ is similar to what we have seen on the news with Harvey Weinstein etc:

  • It is sometimes about an abuse of power and exploitation – people with power exploiting people who are vulnerable.
  • It is sometimes predatory – using compliments, persistence and fear to take advantage of someone when they are weak/defenceless

The impact on the ‘victims’ can be devastating and it is important that those who are ‘witnesses’ or ‘friends’ stand up to protect each other – and yes ‘sexting’ is something we view as being a child protection issue as will the police and wider society.

The item on Sky was interesting as it was not something I had thought about but once I heard the story it was fairly obvious.  I am sure most parents will remember when they were youngsters.  If they lay in their beds and demanded something they may have been told to get up and sort it themselves.  They may have been asked to put a “please” or “thank you” to any demand and they may have had to wait to get something.  But in the modern world if we have a ‘smart device’ we can sit back and demand what we want.  We get what we want immediately and without a please or thank you.  So it comes as no surprise that a university study found that the ‘smart device’ was making people lazier, less polite and more demanding.  The researcher was clear in advising parents of the dangers of these devices – suggesting that youngsters should not use them and should be encouraged to develop good manners, to be active and polite and to recognise that they cannot keep making demands and expecting an immediate response.

The motto on the school badge for Harlaw Academy is “learning and courtesy”.  I hope as a school community we will keep helping young people to learn, particularly about the safe use of technology, and keep promoting courtesy towards other people both in the real and the virtual world.