Wow, it’s been a rather busy 5 weeks.
I have been delivering ‘Safe and Sound’ workshops through the project ArtsNet. ArtsNet is organised by the Cultural Coordinators of South Lanarkshire Council and is funded by it alongside Child Protection Committee and Social Work Scotland.
The project is developed alongside Police Scotland and Child Protection, and looks at the themes of: Personal Safety, Empowerment, Gender Stereotyping, Sexualisation of Young People and Support Network.
The themes are addressed through discussions and dance and drama. It has certainly been a two way learning system as the children are telling us sites and internet access points that we had never heard of. I really believe this is what is so scary about our forever moreso, online world.
During the Parent meetings (which happened before the project) it became really apparent of the generation gap. Children now have grown up using the internet, and therefore understand it a lot more than even me for example; although I am under 30 I still grew up before the internet really took off. That’s what is so scary about it. This expansion of the internet has happened in the last 20 years, with social media being about for the last 8.
And so we now have children that understand the complexities of the internet a lot more than the grown ups. We heard from parents who had made their child’s site private (which in itself is very difficult to do – do you know Facebook has 8 steps for this, that can get restored every time Facebook change it’s settings, AND they don’t tell you!!) to then learn that the child knew exactly how to undo this, and not understanding the full repercussions of what this could do, go ahead and make their site public again.
You have to be 13 or over to have a Facebook site (as goes for Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram). We asked the primary 5-7 children that we were working with (generally two classes from each of the 19 schools we covered) if they had social media. They did. They are not 13. We then asked how they did this and they admitted they had lied about their date of birth. I still totally understand this. Facebook can be such a common way of communication and if everyone else is on it, you want to be too. Children said they used it to talk to family and friends, upload pictures and to play games.
We then asked the children if they thought that we could lie about our age on Facebook to make us look 13. Now this is the scary part. They generally said no. As young as primary 5 (9 years old), a lot of the children had not thought that this could work two ways.
We asked them how easy it would be for us to get a picture of a 13 year old, and they did agree that this would be incredibly simple (a good old Google search) and that it would take seconds.
This discussion was not meant to scare them, as with the other discussions (we generally had one a week looking at quite serious subjects), however it’s intention was to make children aware of what might be happening online. The 13 age restriction aims for people to have responsibility and knowledge and understanding of situations that may arise to know how to deal with them. What is happening is we have a bunch of children accessing adult information, not telling anyone they are doing so, and therefore not knowing who to go to when situations arise.
In every school we had children that had talked to a stranger online.
We taught the children about their Support Network and discussed who may be on it. It was also important to us to encourage this discussion at home, finding out who was on their grown-up’s support network too. We made dance and drama scenes covering this in the hope it will be more memorable. And we looked at the body’s Early Warning Signs that it uses to let us know we feel in an unsafe situation.
‘There is nothing so small or awful that we cannot talk to someone about it’.
We also looked at Gender Stereotyping and how celebrities can influence our opinions in regards to image, money and stereotypes. One thing I was incredibly impressed with was nearly all (if not all) children thought that both men and women could do all jobs. Great discussion to have, and I was delighted to hear this. It really feels like a change in how we perceive different genders and their career paths and choices.
I was delighted to hear from quite a few young ladies about women’s equality!!
The weeks culminated in a performance for parents, relatives, family friends and other classes in the school (upper primary). This was a great chance to open the discussion further with adults and provide more information, culminated from CEOP, to support parents in their responsibilities of their child’s online safety.
Sergeants attended some of the performances, which was great to see not only what the project is doing but also give weight to the performance. The children really felt the importance of what they were doing. It was really great that they could attend.
One Sergeant told me that serious crime was up in Scotland by about 80%, and that this was primarily down to internet extortion.
The internet is not going away, and it’s about time we educated our children to the dangers out there. Dance and drama were a really great way of getting this message, alongside others, across to the children. We had fun, lots of fun, and learnt some important lessons too. Being able to create a performance allowed the message to reach more people, and created an air of excitement with the children about what they were doing. They created invitations and shared what they were learning with their peers and grown-ups. It was lovely to see them so proud.
I have had a great time working on ArtsNet. There will then be an ArtsNet Festival at Hamilton Town House, with nominees from each school attending. Unfortunately I am already booked up with work during this time so will not be able to work on it, but I wish everyone in ArtsNet a wonderful time and the very best of luck for the Festival. There are some really great young people coming your way!