Reaction: Children Need Social Media Training

The possible consequences of using social media should be taught to children as young as 10, although who should be responsible for doing so is still unclear. This was one conclusion from “Speak now: Regret Later?”, a Social Media Week event where as a specialist panel discussed how young people represent themselves online and what implications this may have on their future employability options.

A collaboration between Index on Censorship, The Student Journals and Youth Media Agency, the discussion was chaired by Index CEO Kirsty Hughes, with Asa Bennett, Huffington Post business reporter, Maya Wolfe-Robinson, commissioning editor on Guardian law and Comment is Free, and Siraj Datoo, co-founder of The Student Journals, making up the panel.

The majority of the audience who engaged in the discussion, all under the age of 25, felt they had evolved with the changes in social media and adapted their privacy settings and self-censored accordingly. This quickly lead the debate on the floor to progress to the question of the next generation of social media users; how should they be taught about the possible implications of what they post online and whose responsibility it should be to do this.

“Older people need to have an understanding of social media so that they can properly teach young people how to use it effectively,” commented Datoo, who admitted his own father had a Facebook account but no idea how to use it. He urged that it should be a collective engagement by all of those in contact with children to make them aware of the possible risks they take in using social media.

However, a comment from the floor argued that it should be the responsibility of parents – those buying their children the tablets, laptops and mobile phones on which they have access to social media – to educate them on how they could jeopardise future employment possibilities from what they share online.

One observation made was greeted with nods from around the room; how to use social media safely and without repercussions should be taught alongside sexual education in primary schools. Despite Facebook setting a minimum age of 13, a report by the London School of Economics found that almost half of all British children aged 9 to 12 are using social media networking sites. Many of these users do not take on board that the internet lasts forever- even some of the audience themselves were shocked to hear that Facebook and Snapchat, an app used to send images that supposedly dissolve from the screen after a set time, own and keep all photos posted or sent by their users.

“My heart bleeds for this generation growing up with their baby photos being posted online by their parents; they are born digital and the rest of their lives will be documented across social media,” said Wolfe-Robinson, with agreement from the panel that employers should take this into account in the future. “I fully support the idea for a right to be forgotten, for us not to be judged on comments we made in our youth, but I understand this is probably an unrealistic expectation.”