Innocent sounding sites masking fodder for predators
Back around March (2012) Facebook closed down a page which was in the form of a competition .. the “most beautiful teen in the world” page. It was closed down, amongst other reasons for being in breach of Facebook regulations due to the bullying taking place, in the form of derogatory comments about some of the teens pictures. There of course was the concern that the site might be fodder for predators.
There are many such sites online and it is so important that we teach our teens to check the “about” a page to get a sense of whether something is legitimate and what benefit participating on the page is for them, and to look at the discussions taking place and decide if they really want to part of that.
Recently a friend posted a photo which was supposedly a Puberty Blues meme… the link to the site was actually ‘Hottest Teenagers” – do a search on that term and you might be rather shocked at the content you find on Facebook.
This is the page (there are many with similar names), happy pretty teens on the timeline – but once you look at the page the poses and the comments start to become a concern.
I’m no prude, and I know teens love to share stories and pictures and that is a huge part of the attraction of platforms like Instagram and Tumblr in particular, but what concerns me is WHO set up the page, and what is happening to the photographs being posted on the page? How many are genuine, and how many are plants, set to attract the teens in the first place, so that predators of the world can take this photos and use them elsewhere, or start to interact with the teens and befriend them? Perhaps it is a teen? But more than likely not. I don’t like to paint everything with the “evil” brush, but unfortunately being an open platform, not everyone on Facebook has good intent.
Reporting to Facebook
What is frustrating is that you can report a page to Facebook because you feel that the content is of dubious nature, and if you do get a reply from Facebook, more often that not they say that they don’t find a problem. Now of course there is free speech and we all have different values, but when it comes to our teens, and the need to nurture them, I think we have to step up. A site which encourages our youth to promote themselves in a sexualised fashion and then leaves them open to criticism and possible bullying is a risk. Is the teen resilient enough to withstand negative comments. Often teens who place their pictures on such sites actually are suffering from low self esteem, so the risks for them are even greater. Many such pages do exist and it’s unlikely Facebook will close them all down, so if we can’t close them all down, perhaps we need to somehow find a way to use these sites to help educate our children in a positive way.
Keep up the conversations
Talk to your teens about what they see. Ask them questions, do they look to see who created a page? Do they even care – most likely not! So talk to them about why it might be worth caring? Would they want their image to appear in a magazine, one that might not be to their liking at all, but in which they get no say? How do they feel about possible predators having their photograph? Encourage your children to let you know if they come across sites such as this, and then have the conversation about it. If you both feel uncomfortable about the site, report it to facebook. (Just click on the down arrow beside the Message button and press report). I would not encourage messaging the page to ask about its legitimacy simply because you then might open dialogue with a possible predator. A legitimate site will have more information in the about, should talk about the owner of the page.
Of course an even bigger concern is that there are so many children on Facebook who are not even teenagers yet, so guidance from parents is even more important.
On the other hand, perhaps your child has started a page and built quite a large community. They are probably very proud of what they are created, so don’t come down hard on them, ask them about it, look for the positives and then discuss the negatives. Are they prepared to take responsibility for the community and make sure they have ground rules for engagement and prepared to block people who breach those rules? If not, then they are not ready to manage such a community? It is a something they really need to consider.
Take action, sit down at the computer with your teen tonight and ask them to show you what they are looking at, then have a conversation with them.
This post is not about censorship, it’s about educating our teens to make careful choices and to help minimise risk.
What’s your opinion?