GDPR and social media ages – why does it matter

Here’s a holiday treat – rather than a blog post from me, a recommendation of a fantastic blog by internet safety luminary John Carr.

John’s latest blog post is about the minimum age for using social media, which is currently up for debate because of GDPR, the new data protection legislation coming into force next May.

You might wonder why that matters – for one, if the minimum age were 16, then sexual predators could claim to ‘not know’ they were targetting an under-age child, because anyone on social media therefore “should be” over the age of consent.

Anyway, rather than reading something from me this week, head over to read John’s latest post (not his first on the matter!), to find out more.

Hip, hip, hypocrisy!

On the one face; on the other...
Two of my many faces…

This is an online-safety post with no happy end or tidy solution. Not so unusual in itself, but this time it’s because we as adults are the problem. Now, that isn’t so unusual in itself of course – adults are famously bad digital role models for the children we work with / look after / care for / parent. You did know that, right? Hmmm…

But while our digital lives and footprints snowball out of control (mixed metaphors are allowed at the end of term), and our behaviours morph to suit data-guzzling corporations without us even noticing, why do we stick so rigidly to the same messages and rules for children and young people that we would never dream of adhering to ourselves?

Hands up who has ever smiled a secret smile when receiving lots of birthday greetings on Facebook? Would you be a bit miffed if you didn’t get any? And of course if it’s a birthday with a zero on the end, we expect even more (whilst pretending coyly that we don’t want anyone to know). But how does Facebook know? Surely we don’t enter our birthday on a social network, let alone allow ‘friends’ we’ve never met to see it? No, no, and thrice no! As for our date of birth – don’t be ridiculous!

So why do we keep telling young people never to enter such details on their profile, then act surprised when they do? All the while tutting at the naked narcissism of youth!

“That’s different! It’s a trade-off we are prepared to accept. We can look after ourselves but our children can’t.” Of course there’s an element of truth there (although not that much), but when you consider that effective online-safety education is about behaviour rather than understanding the app of the moment, then you realise that what we adults get up to is quite important too.

And before we rationalise that all away, why not reread this post and replace the date of birth example with something else we ‘would never do’, like post things we wouldn’t want our grandmother or employer to see…etc…etc.

Something to ponder over the summer break.

Let’s talk about sext!

Sexting Article ScreenshotAnother day, another series of sensationalist sexting headlines (nothing to do with selling newspapers, honest!). Here’s one of the more balanced ones from the BBC which is based on the latest figures from the police. Not wanting to become another voice shouting “Aaaagh, sexting!”, here are a couple of things to bear in mind when thinking about the issue of sexting in schools:

  1. If you are a school, general advice isn’t enough. Yes you can find all kinds of great educational resources online, and lots of sources will tell you what to do if you have a sexting incident. But there is one single document for schools from UKCCIS with what you need to do, how, in what order, and when you should or should not report to the police – you don’t always have to. If you haven’t heard of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, it is a key body with representation from the DfE and other government departments.
  2. There’s sexting and sexting. So when you read scary articles about it, you need to bear in mind that lots of young people regard a risqué chat as sexting. Imagine what then happens when someone hears about this but that person thinks sexting means exposed genitals. And then tells someone else who would think a bikini shot is a sext…or maybe it is for a child but not for an adult…or it is if it is sent privately but not if it’s posted on Facebook. Yes I’m muddying the waters, but that is the pond we are in. So yet again, we can’t get around the fact that to address sexting we need more talk, not more tech.
  3. Did you know that very few young people talk about sexting anyway unless they’re talking to an adult who first used the word?

If you want to read a bit more about sexting, the image that I have added to this post is from an article I wrote for one of our magazines and may be useful to share with staff when talking about sexting.

Otherwise, head straight to to find all the best resources (from a wide range of providers) to use with pupils and parents (handy before the summer holidays), and of course that key UKCCIS reference document (which includes great CPD activities for September safeguarding updates).

Right, now back to the headlines…

Don’t panic – it’s only Snap Maps! Then again…

Don't panicIf you’ve been on social media today, you may like me have been inundated with people sharing Nadia Sawalha’s video warning parents about Snap Maps, the new tracking functionality (for want of a better term) baked into the latest Snap Chat update. The 2 minute video has been viewed over 6,000 times in less than a day, so it’s obviously causing a lot of concern.

And indeed it should! If you have only read this far to see whether I plan to support or pooh-pooh the concerns, the answer is…both. As usual, life in today’s digital world isn’t quite as simple as all that.

We first flagged the issue when we shared this BBC article ten days ago. As I wrote, “Not for the first time, geotagging adding unnecessary layer of risk”. Snapchat is incredibly popular among schoolchildren (and the age limit of 13 is often disregarded). In a nutshell, the new functionality allows friends (or everyone in the whole world, or nobody at all, depending on your settings) to see where you were the last time you used Snapchat, where you have shared photos or videos publicly to ‘Stories’, to view them and see where they were posted. And when I say where, I mean exactly where, on a highly detailed streetmap.

The privacy concerns are obvious and are all the more concerning because Snap Chat is so prevalent among young people. I had a quick look and it did indeed seem rather scary on several levels.

But there is good news. For a start, after featuring on mainstream news a few weeks ago, online-safety news is being shared by a celebrity (now gone up to 7.5k views just while I’ve been writing this) and lots of parents who might not necessarily be reached by traditional channels are stopping to think about what their children are doing online. That can only be good news – and this is a great time for schools to offer online-safety support to parents (often a seemingly thankless task).

Secondly, on this particular issue, it is perfectly simple to resolve and to change your Snapchat settings (here’s a handy link from the Snap team to share for that).

But given everything I’ve just said, we do need to guard against a couple of things: we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that working out what to do about Snapchat is enough (or that banning it, which I am not suggesting anyway, solves the problem). The same issues exist with a myriad of apps: remember Instagram has geotagging turned on as a default for most users; so we need to fashion a thoughtful approach to educating young (and old) users. Sounds tricky, but it can be done. Just don’t panic!

One more thing though – there is a reason companies develop these features: they are popular with young people! So let’s be aware of the issues, but stay positive to make a digital difference.


PS – Still worried / interested / want to know more? Head to for supporting resources and guidance or point parents to