Responding to the Children’s Commissioner for England’s latest report into social media usage among 8-12 year olds, Peter Coe, Senior Lecturer in Law at Aston University and a practising barrister, said lessons should start in primary school and include age-appropriate guidance for a generation that has grown up with the Internet.
He has created a simple ‘green cross code’ style acronym for social media use known as PAUSE to act as a starting guide for using platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
Mr Coe said: “Social media is so ingrained in our lives now that it’s vital we’re preparing children and young people for the digital world as early as possible.
“The social media landscape has changed so much in last few years that even relatively young parents weren't brought up in an environment where use was widespread. We need to recognise that parents won’t always have the answers to their children’s questions about social media and ensure that the guidance we’re giving them is both general enough to apply to a range of scenarios, but keeps up to date with changing platforms and use patterns.
“We also need to be educating children and young people from the very beginning about the long-term consequences from social media use, which can create a permanent record that might be looked back on much later by universities or prospective employers.
“The PAUSE guidance provides a memorable set of first principles that children can take on board and apply in their online lives.
“While the Government has committed to adding compulsory ‘digital literacy’ classes to the curriculum, it’s not yet clear what form this will take. In my view, this needs to be started in primary schools in an age-appropriate way and should be standardised, so that all children are getting the same advice at the same age.”
The code is:
(P) Remember that everything you put online has the potential to be seen by anybody and everybody, and that it can be PERMANENT.
(A) Before posting, tweeting, sharing, texting or uploading think about your AUDIENCE and how it could affect them and/or their opinion of you and others, now and later on.
(U) If you are still UNSURE ask for a second opinion from somebody you trust. Equally, if you receive a text, tweet, message or picture that you are UNSURE about tell somebody you trust.
(S) STOP AND THINK what impact your online activity may have on your privacy or reputation, or the privacy or reputation of others. Remember (P).
(E) If you are uncomfortable with anything that’s been tweeted, posted, shared or uploaded END your involvement immediately and tell somebody you trust.
Notes to the editor
Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established research-led university known for its world-class teaching quality and strong links to business and the professions. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive.
Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 25 years and our students do extremely well in securing top jobs and careers. Our strong relationships with industry partners mean we understand the needs of employers, which is why we are also ranked in the top 20 for graduate employability.
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