By MARK PEARSON Follow @Journlaw
[Extracted from my public lecture 'Social Media - Risks and Rewards']
Administrators and parents are indeed concerned about social media – partly because the little they know about it has been informed via the lens of the news media and war stories like those I have related above. Their perceptions are also skewed by the new industry of cyber-safety – everything from net nanny systems for your IT system through to speakers and consultants ready to advise on the evils of trolls and cyber-predators. I am not suggesting such inputs are unnecessary, but I wonder about their impact on policy at a time when parents and administrators are already approaching Web 2.0 with trepidation.
With all these resources committed to it, one might be excused for believing cyberbullying had driven young people to the depths of depression and anxiety and were consequently taking their own lives at an alarming rate. The fact is that in the decade 2000-2010 – a period during which both Internet and social media usage grew rapidly – youth suicide in Australia actually declined. It declined across the whole 15-24 year age group, with suicides among males in that age group decreasing by 34 per cent. That is not to say, however, that the rate of youth suicide is not alarming. The number of suicides is still far too high and like all stats this figure can have a range of explanations – better counselling, changes in media coverage, the efforts of campaigns like Beyond Blue and RU OK? (partly on social media), and improved medicines for psychiatric conditions. …While it is tragic for any young person to take their life for such a reason, there seems to be no hard data that Internet and social media usage is driving more young people to this level of despair (ABS, 2012).
After all, social media is in many ways just a microcosm of our broader lives, and problems like bullying have always existed. These platforms present new channels for the demonstration of such behaviours, replacing or supplementing replacing the schoolyard taunts, the prank calls, the practical jokes and the toilet graffiti.
See the full lecture at: http://journlaw.com/2013/08/29/social-media-risks-and-rewards-journlaws-public-lecture/
Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.