Saturday, 23 March 2019

Reacting to social media.

I listened to MPs and other people in the public eye discussing this and that on Any Questions on the radio. At one point the matter of social media came up, the power it has and the kind of use it is put to these days. On the panel was the MP Diane Abbott who has had loads of online abuse, including rape threats and death threats. She made the point that abusive mail has always been received but that in the past it was actual mail. Everything took longer to be processed. Nowadays all kinds of comments, official and unofficial, are immediately out there on the public eye, rather than it being just something someone said in the back room of a pub. When the latter was the case, it took so long for opinions to get out there that by the time people had reacted, something else was happening, and the moment had gone.

Then I read about children as young as three making loads of money from their pictures being “followed” on instagram. This has always struck me as odd but it’s a part of the great advertising world. Advertisers quickly latch onto anything which gets their product seen. What struck me was not so much the mothers who put pictures of their delightful little moppets and poppets out their, although I know quite a number of parents of young children who are horrified by such a thing, but by children as young as nine managing their own media sites.

One does reviews of toys and talks quite sensibly about it: “Some of the toys I do are really babyish, but I realised that if I shoot videos for younger kids, there are lots of them out there who would want to watch. I’m clever.” She is indeed. I am still amazed that parents of young children are happy to entertain them by letting them sit down and watch videos of other kids opening parcels, but that’s a different matter altogether.

The nine year old in question receives about five toys to review each week. Where does she store them? Does she pass them on to other, less canny, less media-savvy children.

However, linking this media phenomenon to the question of famous people receiving abusive mail via social media, there is the question of media reaction. The offspring-promoting parents and the nine year old all receive critical comments and have learnt to ignore them. The nine year old has sensible parents who look at the comments with her. “We look at the comments together and discuss them; it helps me learn how to respond to good and bad things in life. There are some boys at school who tease me or say I pay for ads. We don’t even know how to do that. I ignore a lot of it - there are enough nice people out there.”

Maybe if more parents actually spent time on social media with their children instead of using it as a kind of babysitting service, then children would learn to react better to what they come across on the small screens. Maybe it would become less of a problem. We can’t make it go away but perhaps we can learn to live with it.

It’s just an idea!

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