back to article UK digital secretary throws cold water over bid for laws on kids' use of social media

UK digi secretary Matt Hancock has rejected the idea of greater government intervention on kids' use of tech – just as The Daily Telegraph launched a campaign calling on politicians to take stronger action. The Tory-friendly paper has teamed up with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) as well …

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Can't spy on them if they are not online.

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Anonymous Coward

"Can't spy on them if they are not online."

Isn't locating your offspring the whole point of "find my iphone"?

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My 3 are always online. The difference is that they understand where not to go, who not to speak to and when in any doubt to call mum or dad who will drop everything and help them. Oh, and they all have iPhones as all they have to do is call/text and say “please get me home”.

Children tend to have far more common sense than adults these days in matters internet, especially it would seem ‘digital ministers’.

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Coat

My 3 are always online. The difference is that they understand where not to go, who not to speak to and when in any doubt to call mum or dad who will drop everything and help them. Oh, and they all have iPhones as all they have to do is call/text and say “please get me home”.

I thought when they went online they were physically still at home?

Does this require some sort of Matrix style unjacking?

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Anonymous Coward

advertisers "think of the children" all the time...

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You forgot the CCTV every few hundred metres..

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Isn't locating your offspring the whole point of "find my iphone"?

To my certain knowledge I don't need 'Find my iPhone' inside my own home. An app called "Find and Tell my Teenager to do the effing washing up" might be different.

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Over the weekend I was speaking to someone who was talking about their 8 year old niece and how she's on Instagram. Not her parents taking photos of her and posting them on an account, this 8 year old has full access to her own account. She showed me photos of her pouting etc etc, obviously trying to emulate not only what she sees on Instagram, but what she sees on TV and other media.

The sexualisation of children in the UK especially has run unabated for decades now, yet it's only the problem of social networks? Do me a lemon. Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture.

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

I disagree, I believe the main culprits are the parents and their lack of proper parenting.

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Anonymous Coward

I hope you did the moral and right thing by reporting that account to Instagram (as they are under the age of 13)

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Mary Whitehouse

Was right all along:

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2001/nov/24/guardianobituaries.obituaries

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The sexualisation of children in the UK especially has run unabated for decades now

Then, when they try (as prepubescents) to emulate what they have experienced, either through sexual harassment of younger children or with adults, they are punished as adult offenders. That creates some internal "contradiction" in these young spirits, possibly leading to social and psychological issues.

Why not "think of the children" and stop promoting the filth to them at early ages? Honestly I have no idea why is this happening.

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Anonymous Coward

@wolftone

Whilst I agree that the media (typically from countries with lower ages of consent or where they just find children sexually attractive) have promoted children dressing in what I would agree was inappropriate clothing, it doesn't mean that the kids can actually buy anything without parental support.

My children have been brought up to share my disdain for slutty clothes but since someone is buying this crap then clearly the shops will sell and advertise to who is willing to buy it.

At the end of the day it is your job as a parent to protect your children and educate in things such as exactly what these clothes are saying i.e. that they are sexually available.

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

I disagree, I believe the main culprits are the parents and their lack of proper parenting.

Beg to differ. Imagine you're a child who is being bombed from everywhere with innuendos and references to what your parents explicitly told you NOT to go near over and over and again. Add peer pressure (especially girls and losing virginity at early ages to the excuses of dating and "progressiveness") and you get a child torn between being "cool" and being "obedient". Many choose cool over obedient (as parents are touted as "uncool"!)

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Re: @wolftone

I do agree ...

But that should go hand in hand with other aspects of good parenting, such as father-boy "friendship" to counter the "uncool Dad" effect. Especially authoritarian-figure Dads tend to suffer from this issue, distancing their "obedient subject" child away from them.

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Childcatcher

...so ban kids from having smartphones

Obviously it's not a complete solution, but you remove a major part of the problem by stopping kids having smartphones. They can have non-smart phones if actually necessary, noting that yes they do tend to have cameras now but the important bit is the reduced convenience and unavailability of the internet.

If you want to be nanny-statishly cynical then added pressure to stop people ignoring the ban is easily added by lots of public 'endangering your child' statements etc though if it comes from government people might ignore that by default.

I might change my mind if I ever saw any justification for a child to have a fully-functional internet-accessible two-way audio/video communication device which has only the barest of useless protections from others as well as themselves.

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Missed the edit window - I meant "postpubescents".

And by "punishment as adults" I don't mean the law, I mean society.

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@ Waseem Alkurdi

In my experience, If you have done your job as a parent properly without lies or omissions then your children can understand sufficiently what these clothes are saying about them before age 8.

However if you pretend sex doesn't exist until they are adults or do not spend enough time / bring them up to be sheep then you can expect them to make all their own mistakes.

Mistakes that you could have helped them avoid

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Anonymous Coward

The sexualisation of children in the UK especially has run unabated for decades now, yet it's only the problem of social networks?

We can continue that discussion when Sainsbury removes the Sluts, sorry Disney Fairy range from their shelves.

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Anonymous Coward

"Why not "think of the children" and stop promoting the filth to them at early ages?"

If by "filth" you mean sex education - then many of our European neighbours have long had enlightened policies that result in youngsters being able to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately back in 2002 the UK government looked to the USA as "best practice" - where "just say no" policies correlate to high rates of teenage pregnancy.

Sexualisation of children through fashion has much in common with the Disney style rose-tinted "happily ever after" romance stories.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @wolftone

"Whilst I agree that the media (typically from countries with lower ages of consent [...]"

I am not sure a country's age of consent correlates with sexualisation of children. The USA has some of the lowest ages of effective consent - where half the states have no lower age limit to a marriage approved by parents and a judge. On the other hand many European countries have a mid-teens age of consent and a higher age for marriage. Many of those USA states prevent sex education being accessible - whereas the European countries equip the young to make informed decisions.

In the UK it is the conservative media who are more likely to push pictures of children, especially young girls, as "all grown up" - while on the opposite page demanding action to "protect the children".

The promotion of romantic fashion has usually been a way of a society hiding the truth about sex in relationships. Thus being attractive to the opposite sex through fashions is encouraged - without providing the necessary understanding of the undertones of particular styles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

" Add peer pressure (especially girls and losing virginity at early ages to the excuses of dating and "progressiveness") and you get a child torn between being "cool" and being "obedient". "

Peer pressure works both ways. As many European countries have shown - good sex and relationship education encourages the peer pressure to be in favour of delaying sex.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

Well, I'll be damned. A minister with a reasonable opinion! I tend to agree that parents are responsible for the social upbringing of their child and the safeguarding of the same, but I also agree that certain areas of our culture do not make it easy.

My pet hate is music. By which I mean a large slice of the RnB/MTV culture of music. The lyrics and dance are massively inappropriate and I am appalled everytime I see young children being told to "wind their bodies", "Shake that phat booty", or singing lyrics that are basically sexual (or, when they aren't they're about how important money is, how bad ass you are, or about guns and gang violence). This shite is everywhere they go - try listening to the messages and stories some of those songs espouse.

Perhaps worse still, I was at my childrens school open day last week and the teachers themselves led a "action song" for kids as young as six that had lyrics that went: "Pizza hut, Pizza hut, Kentucky fried chicken and a pizza hut, McDonalds, McDonalds...." repeated over and over, with the actions being recreations of the logos! I mean, WTF are you teaching these kids?!

I dared to ask the teachers too and was met with blank looks and laughter.

the normalization of marketing and the measure of self being money. That's what our media teaches despite our best efforts as parents.

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back in 2002 the UK government looked to the USA as "best practice"

Why would anyone do that? for any subject?

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

Well said! you dont have to hide behind that mask to say that you know!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

Peer Pressure beats parenting a lot of the time... much to the despair of parents

Cannot comment on all school scenarios, but at bog standard comp in a mainly white catchment area (sadly far too full of brexit orgasming racists) then its either bow to peer pressure or be a "no mates" - & not many kids want to be ostracized by their peer group.

It may well not be an issue in nice middle class schools, but it definitely is in some areas

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

@MiguelC

I think you underestimate the power of pestering. A parent might want to be strict, but if their child's peers get to have something, the child wants it too, and will pester, and pester, and pester until the parent crumbles. A parent might be able to delay getting their child a phone or a tablet, but it probably will happen, and the entry level price for smartphones and tablets is pretty low these days, Black Friday saw Fire tabs for £30, so it's an inexspensive way to placate a kid and many parents take that option.

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

Beg to differ. Imagine you're a child who is being bombed from everywhere with innuendos and references to what your parents explicitly told you NOT to go near over and over and again. Add peer pressure (especially girls and losing virginity at early ages to the excuses of dating and "progressiveness") and you get a child torn between being "cool" and being "obedient". Many choose cool over obedient (as parents are touted as "uncool"!)

bigger question is how much time over a week do you spend with your kids?

weekdays during term time its wake, breakfast, get ready for school, drop at school, pick up from school, playtime, homework, dinner, bed.

They are in school almost 8 hours a day and in the charge of teachers and company of their peers. This is where a lot of the problems arise and is worse for single parents who nowadays often live away from family and rely on after school clubs to do the care cover while they finish work.

rightly or wrongly the system conspires us to outsource most of our parenting to others for most of our waking days and often the care provided is not suitable.

there is no encouragement for better care and no support for those that are trying to keep down a job.

Once school is done, it doesn't mean kids can't learn, pushing them out on the street expecting their parents to continue the education clearly does not work in many many cases especially inner cities. The kids need ongoing care till parents can get to them and that care could be sports, learning arts etc or just a safe space away from bullies and gangs. perhaps an evening meal could help as many parents (often those not working) don't or won't provide an evening meal, my sister in law included although my brother worked full time she didn't work and refused to cook a meal for her kids as they had a cooked meal at lunch at school we'd often take the kids out and feed them in the evenings.

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

kidzbop.com

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Why would anyone do that? for any subject?

Whatever they don't do - that's best practice

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Re: ...so ban kids from having smartphones

My dirt cheap dumb phone has a web browser on it. Never bothered to fire it up before, but I did just now. It showed me google.com, and looks like a proper web browser to me.

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@wolfetone "The sexualisation of children in the UK especially has run unabated for decades now ... Everyone from the BBC..."

The BBC and their sweeping under the carpet of the sexual abuse of children (for the good of the institution) has sexualised many more young people than we will ever know. Same goes for the NHS, public schools, the churches and the government.

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

@tip pc

Your post most accurately summarizes what's fucked up about our fucked up parent-child relationship.

Parents are a part of the problem, society is the other. Peer pressure is something you simply can't ignore. I know this from first-hand experience.

The problem is that you need to be trained to take out a driving license, or highly trained to take out a pilot's license, while any couple of idiots who think they're stuck in teenage and its carefree life can marry (or not, at least in Western societies) and have kids, even though raising children is no less serious than the other two ...

Social services are a patchy solution that at best fails to address the issue.

It's really pathetic to hear about a parent who refuses to cook a meal for her children ... where's the God-given empathy? Where is the motherly feeling? All lost to ... money? Don't want kids? Don't have them!

@Doctor_Wibble

About phones ... peer pressure can be really tricky. Their classmates have the latest iThings and Samthungs and they have dumbphones? I won't accept that for my own kids ... been there as a kid and know how it feels. Instead, I'd spare them the pain and get them phones without mobile data and parental controls that tell me what have they been seeing on Wi-Fi. Hacked? I'd LOVE them doing it ... teaches them to be geeks, which I could counter anyhow, so that's secured.

The pain caused by this sort of peer pressure can cause them emotional and psychological damage. I'd rather avoid that.

@Anonymous Coward

In my experience, If you have done your job as a parent properly without lies or omissions then your children can understand sufficiently what these clothes are saying about them before age 8.

However if you pretend sex doesn't exist until they are adults or do not spend enough time / bring them up to be sheep then you can expect them to make all their own mistakes.

Mistakes that you could have helped them avoid

I do agree with you. But let me clarify a few things:

1. I'm not a parent ... I'm still 18 years old. I noticed that you supposed that (a) I am a parent and (b) I was negligent with my children. Dunno if it wasn't that way ... but I thought I'd clarify it anyhow.

2. You can't pretend that sex doesn't exist until they're adults, but at eight years old, they probably won't understand anything about sex-ed without being curious to try it (and therefore get sexualized at an early age?) I assume good touch / bad touch is an exception here, which is a concept that should have been explained at beginning of school.

@Anonymous Coward

If by "filth" you mean sex education - then many of our European neighbours have long had enlightened policies that result in youngsters being able to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately back in 2002 the UK government looked to the USA as "best practice" - where "just say no" policies correlate to high rates of teenage pregnancy.

Sexualisation of children through fashion has much in common with the Disney style rose-tinted "happily ever after" romance stories.

I didn't mean sex-ed, I meant innuendos and the filth they see on TV (and as a fellow Anon Coward explained, MTV-type music videos). His post perfectly mirrors my opinion.

But since you touched on sex-ed, I'm not sure if it's the solution alone. While the US "just say no" policy you mentioned won't work (No? Heck, I don't care about what you say, Dad, and I'm running off! I'm x years old and you have no control over my freedom! Blah blah BLAH!), because teenagers make rash decisions at times without balancing opportunities. Under the effect of hormones, rational judgment can be impaired.

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Re: ...so ban kids from having smartphones

Banning something immediately makes it ultra-cool for kids...

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Holmes

Re: ...so ban kids from having smartphones

So adjust the spec limitations to include 'with no internet capability', along with any other adjustments as may be required to make it clear what the point is, depending on the level of smartarsery involved.

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Holmes

Re: ...so ban kids from having smartphones

Hence the 'not a complete solution' remark.

Even a PAYG phone has a legal agreement attached to it, so enforce the requirement for being old enough to consent to it, make sure the grown-ups who approved any agreement (i.e. both buyer and seller) are held responsible for it, and if everyone denies any knowledge then it goes under the hammer.

Yes there will always be the ultra cool kid who's big and clever but they are less of a problem than thinking that's a reason to not bother trying. Better ideas are what we need.

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

Whatever happened to Heads Shoulders Knees And Toes or I'm A Little Nut Tree?

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Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

Pizza hut, Pizza hut, Kentucky fried chicken and a pizza hut, McDonalds, McDonalds

My Scouts used to sing that 20 years ago, it was just a “Scout song”, I never really saw any relationship between that and some sort of capitalist conspiracy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Everyone from the BBC through to Primark are responsible for this culture."

I'm not suggesting it's an engineered corporate marketing conspiracy (though more money is spent in advertising to children than any other advertising sector), but aren't we supposed to be avoiding encouraging children to avoid 'fast' foods and lower childhood obesity? I can't see how repeating the names as a mantra helps that. The fact that people think its "just a song" is part of the issue here.

Music, rhythm and repetition have power to influence, and young children are highly susceptible to it.

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Anonymous Coward

Given that biometics, transport discount cards and the NCS in school have already profiled them ...

then kids using social media is actually in competition, so yeah I can see why they don't want them on there making it so the child catchers from chitty chitty bang bang can't make a buck.

That being said, since pretty much all Social networks require user confirmation for them to profile and since these kids are underage then they are profiling them without legal consent, never mind GDPR.

Not that I believe they care any more than the children's parents or UK Government do.

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Anonymous Coward

...or sea change at the Daily Mail ?

Now Dacre's out and Greigs in, I suspect we'll see quite a few shifts in Tory policy.

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Re: ...or sea change at the Daily Mail ?

Do not jinx it... Or that may be the drop of blood into the empty coffin which will reincarnate THE EDITOR to dispatch the errant scribes with a few professionally placed neck bites.

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Mushroom

Digital ostrich

We'll say 'ooh, isn't this bad' every time the Daily Mail kicks up a fuss, but we won't come up with some coherent laws. You see, as the government, it's not our place to legislate anything about the matter as it looks like inexplicable magic to us which we are powerless to defend ourselves against. Instead we should leave them to the tender mercies of West Coast slurpcorps who understand this stuff better and have assured me they have their wellbeing at heart. As it happens one of which casually mentioned in our last meeting that they may be interested in offering someone of my calibre a directorship in their UK office.

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Re: Digital ostrich, digital smeagol...

it's not our place to legislate anything about the matter as it looks like inexplicable magic to us

That 'digital ostrich' manages to become a 'digital anteater' other times, wanting the tasty meta-ants no matter how far down that hole and how long ago said ant colony existed,

And if it's 'inexplicable magic', doesn't stop them demanding 'one simple trick' to defy the laws of mathematics, god and reason if it's whats they want (and they wants it now, our precious).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Digital ostrich, digital smeagol...

"[...] god [...]"

Their $deity is usually invoked as the divine reason why the laws of science and reason can be disregarded. See the current moves towards sainthood of the author G K Chesterton through attributed "miracle" births.

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SVV
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At least they're safe from the Telegraph

I just ventured over there to see what the horrors I might be in danger from on the internet are, but alas the article is hidden behind a paywall after a couple of paragraphs, so their campaigtn will not be very effective. It's like saying "Beware of being conned or exploited on the web. Click here to buy exclusive access to find ot how".

Still, you can be reassured that your little ones are not going to turn into horrid little tory right wingers, as the paper has kindly lead the way in shielding them from such ideas by making their content unavailable to all but the already believing who are willing to pay.

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Of course no restrictions on children.

of greater government intervention on kids' use of tech

No, of course not, they'd much rather use the convenient excuse to monitor and restrict adults use instead.

Goes to prove that when the government get 'alarmed' about childrens safety on the internet, their focus is on another round of getting 'that barn door further closed' and culling a few more 'cattle' that have dared to step out of line.

Added bonus, all that lovely data they are gathering has a longer shelf life than the 'old mutton' that'll be well passed harvest value in ten or twenty years., by which time the fresh rising crop will have a really rich, deep data set.

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Unusual territory for the Telegraph

I'd have expected it to be the Sun or Daily Mail that would take up this "Won't somebody think of the children" campaign to improve circulation counter social media pernicious effects.

In all seriousness, I don't think The Telegraph has a history of campaigning on any subject, let alone one like this which you would think could raise some cross-party support from both sides of Fleet Street.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unusual territory for the Telegraph

The Telegraph has changed in the last few years. It used to be a sane voice from the right of the political spectrum - worth reading as part of a balanced news diet when also reading left of centre newspapers.

Nowadays many of its articles' authors seem to be more fanatical in their views on the world - at least judging by their headlines and short introduction excerpts. Possibly another sign - or cause - of the apparently unbridgeable polarisation of UK politics.

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Re: cross-party support

cross-party support .

I've always wondered why ive never witnessed that. Youd think from time to time , or maybe just once , one side would come up with a policy or an idea that wasnt completely abhorrent and ridicule worthy to the other side ....

still waiting ....

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