Professionals Online Safety Helpline update: (Jan – March 2017)
It’s been a busy start to the year on the Helpline. The first quarter of 2017 has seen a 42% rise in cases compared to the same period in 2016.
We have seen a particular increase (30%) in the number of professional reputation abuse cases over this same period.
The nature of these cases is also becoming increasingly complex, and require a greater degree of case management. This has included more instances of reputational damage, which have required police intervention in order to resolve them.
To help tackle the issue, we recently assisted London Grid for Learning in producing reputation management guidance, to help organisations who are looking at strategies for managing their online reputation.
We have also seen a huge rise in cases involving peer-on-peer abuse (over 1000% more cases this year so far). These tend to take the form of harassment in private messages within popular apps/online games and via youth produced sexual imagery.
You may have seen recent stories about the Letter X and Blue Whale ‘games’, both of which may not have even become a ‘thing’ had it not been for the stories sweeping across national and local media.
Certainly the latter of these two originated as a fake news story but the publicity around it has meant it has led to copycat behaviour amongst young people.
The age of young people affected by fake news stories increasingly seems to be younger and younger with several calls about bullying and victimising behaviour amongst peers happening in primary schools, with children as young as 7 involved in behaviour which could be criminalised.
It’s a tricky subject, which highlights the importance of critical thinking online. On the one hand it’s natural that people want to raise awareness of threats to young people’s safety, but on the other it’s important not to fan the flames of unsubstantiated reports and unwittingly create a problem that didn’t previously exist.
The underage use of popular social media apps continues to be a concern with young people increasingly putting themselves at risk. The rise of live streaming, and apps built around this, means that publishing risk taking content is even more appealing to younger users.
This in itself triggers safeguarding concerns and in many cases has resulted in police involvement. Most apps these days do have an age rating, and it’s important to be aware of these to give yourself a better understanding of whether what they are using is suitable. If you’re unsure, take a look at our social media guides for more information.