Scottish parliament summit on major issue: online safety for young people

Experts from government, the police, the voluntary sector and business are getting together with young people today [Wednesday 4th December] to consider how to improve online safety.

This is one of the key issues of today, with young people constantly exposed to online violence  – actual violence, including killings of the most graphic and appalling kind and to hard core pornography – at an age when they can only imagine that this is the way the world is, the world they are moving in to as they get a little older.

The social and personal consequences of these online abuses are already in evidence.

There is an increasing number of very young boys who are committing hard core crimes of sexual violence on young girls – thinking that this is what men do.

Society is already virtually desensitised in the case of the most dreadful violence. The recent You Tube showing an actual beheading – which went viral quickly amongst young people through the ‘Famous on Facebook’ network, saw a large number of very young children access it, thinking that they were going to see something comic.

We published on this at the time – with little comment.

Any society content to leave young children exposed to both of these extremities for the fear of appearing uncool – or worse, for having got to the point of thinking that this sort of thing ought to be matter of choice, has seriously lost its way.

Young children have no choice, because they don’t yet know the menu. They are being left to bump into this sort of profoundly and negatively formative material by adults who ought to be unafraid of knowing better.

This summit is one never more necessary and it is good to see the Scottish Government taking it on.

The event, at the Scottish Parliament, is jointly hosted by Minister for Children and Young People ,Aileen Campbell and Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, Alasdair Allan, has been called following recent tragic consequences of online abuse.

It will address a range of issues, including cyber-bullying, online grooming, explicit imagery and blackmail.

Aileen Campbell says: ‘We’ve seen too much devastation caused by the abusive use of the internet. In some cases, it was brutally planned and an obvious, abhorrent criminal act. But for many people, the anonymity online allows them to forget that their actions and comments can be incredibly damaging to those on the receiving end.

‘We need to educate parents and children about the importance of knowing what to do and where to go if something goes wrong online to stop abuse and prevent tragic consequences.

‘We’ve already given all schools advice on responsible use of phones, tablets and other mobile devices and a new web resource is helping schools review and develop how they teach online safety. This summit will build on this work by pooling the experience of a broad range of professionals and young people themselves to develop the next steps.’

Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, Dr Alasdair Allan, added:

“We want every child and young person in Scotland to grow up free from bullying, and schools have a vital role to play in protecting their pupils. Apart from teaching children about the dangers and impact of inappropriate online behaviour, we often see the results of any online bullying play out in the school environment, which can have an effect on not just the pupil affected, but their classmates and school as a whole.

“This summit offers a valuable opportunity to acknowledge the steps we’ve already taken, look to the future and acknowledge the fact that we can and will tackle this problem by working together. Schools, parents, those at the summit today and the media all have a role to play in ensuring our children can go online without fear of bullying or abuse.”

Notes to Editors
Representatives from the following organisations will be at the summit:

Scottish Government
Young Scot
Respectme
Police Scotland
CEOP
Perth and Kinross Council
Highland Council
National Parent Forum of Scotland
Association of Directors of Education Scotland
Care Inspectorate
TalkTalk Group
Children 1st
Children in Scotland
UK Safer Internet Centre/Southwest Grid for Learning
Education Scotland
Childline Scotland

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