Should we blame influencers for online harm? 40,000 children have their say
23 Feb 2023
With the Online Harms Bill making its way through Parliament, Andrew Tate in the news and Safer Internet Day happening, VotesforSchools chose the question above as a weekly VoteTopic. You may be surprised at the results.
At VotesforSchools we want our children to be informed, be curious and be heard.
We create weekly resources for teachers to hold a discussion about a topical issue. Differentiated into Primary, Secondary and Colleges, the students can have an infomed, considered debate. They then vote on a question and leave comments. The real power comes when that data is shared with those who can really make a difference.
So should we blame influencers for online harm? We explored with them the nature and purpose of influencer culture online, discussed how influencers make money and the effect their content can have on young consumers. Finally they decided whether influencers are responsible for negative online repercussions or if online harm is beyond their control.
With just short of 40,000 votes, 71% of secondary students and 55% of primary pupils said no.
‘Influencers are not responsible for our safety because it isn’t their job to keep us safe. We should be able to make safe decisions ourselves or with help of parents or carers', commented one primary pupil, but others believed ‘...the influencers create and post the videos, so they need to be responsible.’
Although the majority of secondary aged students said no, those voting yes had some strong views: ‘Yes! Influencers enforce and promote horrible lifestyles, as well as misleading products, which leads to physical, financial and mental harm.’
We are always blown away by the maturity and insight of the comments. This is not a poll, the comments reflect the process they have been through to reach their conclusions; and it’s crucial that we ensure these voices are heard and go on to have an impact.
These results will be shared with NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner and the DCMS amongst others. At VotesforSchools we create ongoing relationships with those in authority: they are kind enough to consider the results and then respond to the children. This, in turn, encourages engagement.
‘We work fast’, says Dan, Impact Manager, ‘with topics ranging from mental health to body image; from the environment to refugees, from free school meals and social media to whether hosting the World Cup in Qatar was a mistake, it’s a weekly race to make sure the children’s voices are heard in the right places.’
Many of the team at VotesforSchools are former teachers and we recognise the reality of classroom teaching. Our platform is easy to navigate, our resources are zero-prep and give teachers the confidence to tackle tricky issues.
At only five years old, and based in England, we are now excited about including Scottish children in the debates. ‘It fits perfectly into the Curriculum for Excellence and our mapping to UNCRC and SDGs supports schools working towards their Unicef Rights Respecting Awards’, says Georgie, Head of Content (Unicef UK are friends of ours: we worked with them on seeking youth voice in the run up to COP26.)
‘We know that building the skills of critical thinking, tolerance, empathy and being informed about- and having agency in- the world about them is not only crucial for English or Scottish children but needed everywhere.’
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