eSafety for all of us

Wednesday, 26 Apr 2023

In today's digital age, social media platforms like Snapchat and TikTok have become increasingly popular among teenagers. While these platforms provide a means of communication and entertainment, there are concerns over the challenges that teenagers are replicating and participating in on these platforms. These challenges can range from harmless fun to dangerous activities that can risk their safety and wellbeing.

Snapchat is a social media platform that is primarily used for communication through pictures and videos that disappear after a set amount of time. One of the most concerning issues with Snapchat is that teenagers can use the app to send explicit messages or photos to each other, which can lead to cyberbullying and other dangerous situations. Additionally, the app's "streaks" feature encourages teenagers to send pictures or videos back and forth with their friends every day, which can lead to a sense of pressure and addiction to the app.

TikTok, on the other hand, is a social media platform that allows users to create short videos set to music or other audio. While many of the challenges on TikTok are harmless and fun, some dangerous challenges have put teenagers' safety at risk. For example, the "Tide Pod Challenge" involved teenagers eating laundry detergent pods, while the "Skullbreaker Challenge" involved tripping a person from behind, causing them to fall and potentially injure themselves.

So, what can teenagers, parents, and schools do to address these issues?

According to the Australian eSafety Commission, it's important for parents and caregivers to talk to their children about online safety and to set boundaries around social media use. They suggest discussing the potential risks and consequences of using these platforms, such as cyberbullying, online harassment, and exposure to inappropriate content. Additionally, they recommend monitoring your child's social media use and reporting any concerning behaviour to the relevant authorities.

For teenagers, the eSafety Commission advises being mindful of what they post online and to think before they share. They suggest considering how their posts might be perceived by others and whether it could harm themselves or others. Additionally, they recommend using the reporting tools available on social media platforms if they encounter any bullying or harassment.

If teenagers or parents encounter any threatening or predatory behaviour online, the eSafety Commission recommends reporting it to the police. They suggest keeping any evidence, such as screenshots or messages, and seeking support from a trusted adult or support service.

Schools can also play a role in addressing these issues. Educators can teach students about responsible social media use and the potential consequences of posting inappropriate content. They can also create a safe and supportive environment where students feel comfortable reporting any incidents of cyberbullying or other dangerous behaviour.

In addition, schools can work with parents and community organisations to create educational programs that help teenagers navigate the challenges of social media. These programs can provide teenagers with the tools and resources to make informed decisions about their social media use and stay safe online.

It is important to note that social media platforms also have a role to play in ensuring the safety of their users. Snapchat, for example, has introduced measures such as Snap Map, which allows users to control who can see their location on the app. TikTok also has a number of safety features, including the ability to restrict who can view a user's videos and to filter comments.

Overall, while social media platforms like Snapchat and TikTok can provide teenagers with a means of communication and entertainment, there are potential dangers associated with these platforms. It is important for teenagers, parents, and schools to work together to address these issues and promote responsible social media use. Doing so can create a safer and more supportive online environment for all teenagers. And remember, if you encounter any bullying, predatory, or threatening behaviour online, report it to the relevant authorities, such as the police.

Nick Johnstone