Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Internet safety and BBC children's services

Yesterday was EU Internet Safety Day, and Newsround gave some helpful advice to kids about how to stay safe online. This report was from the BBC One programme at 5pm -

(studio) Sonali: Loads of us chat to our mates online. For most of us it's a great way to stay in touch, but for Georgia it turned into a complete nightmare. She was bullied on social networking sites, and has been telling Maddy all about it.

(video report) Maddy: Georgia was bullied online for about six months. Girls she'd known for ages started sending her nasty messages on MSN and Bebo.

Georgia: They were calling me fat and making me believe that I was fat. And it would just carry on from there. Stuff like "if you hate Georgia sign here." And she would get people to sign stuff and make hate mail. When my mum and dad went out and I would shut the door, close the curtains, turn the lights off and make sure it was all dark, and I would just scream to get all my anger out of me.

Maddy: Most kids don't get as badly bullied as Georgia, but it is a big problem. You're not exactly going to chuck your computers away though. So how do you make sure what you're doing in cyberspace is safe?

Boy: If you're gonna go on Bebo or MSN, add people you know and trust.

Girl: I think we could have it in the living room so your mum and parents can watch over you. And it's simpler, so they know what you're doing and see if you're safe. And if you're not they can tell you to come off of that.

Maddy: Seventeen social networking sites have just promised to do more to protect people who use them. If you still end up being bullied, the advice is tell someone. Save the messages and don't reply to any of them.

Georgia: My message to anyone that's being bullied is to speak up. Tell your mum, your dad, it may feel awful but it's something you've got to do, you can't go through it alone. And the message to the bullies - it's not big, it's not clever, and you may think it's a bit of fun, it's a joke, it's really not to the bully victim. It means everything to them.

(studio) Sonali: Well, if you're worried about being bullied on the 'net, head over to our website for more advice.
The trouble is that at the end of last year CBBC closed down lots of safe and well used message boards, describing the changes as improvements. No kids were fooled, however, and there were hundreds of complaints about the closures. Newsround apparently didn't have enough time to investigate.

I requested that the BBC Trust look into this as part of their consultation into children's and young people's services. They refused to countenance my suggestion.

The first part of the Trust's consultation was published yesterday, though not reported by Newsround despite a major publicity drive on CBBC in the autumn to get feedback from under 12 year olds.

Amongst the Trust findings was that programmes like Newsround and Blue Peter are losing audiences.

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