28 Oct

What’s the point of teaching our children online safety if allegedly responsible adults are going to break all the rules we encourage them to follow?

I gatecrashed East Lothian’s first Internet Safety training for Parents and Families evening held at Musselburgh Grammar School last month. I think I qualify as an “informed” parent having had a first career in IT and having conducted a fair bit of my professional life online. I’m an online survivor as it were! Notwithstanding a bit of CEOP sensationalism, I felt the evening was pitched pretty well, managing to avoid patronising parents with lessons in egg-sucking and give us a few “areas for development” to take home with us.

Kidsmart are the UK face of Childnet International a non-profit organisation working with others to:

“help make the Internet a great and safe place for children”

picture-2.pngand they have formulated for parents 5 Key Points to online safety, the first of which stresses not to post any personal information that might lead to you being identified offline, so no addresses, phone numbers, school names and definitely no answering of A/S/L? Obvious, basic, and common sense.

I can’t claim to have oodles of statistics on paedophile techniques for grooming to hand, but I believe that most perpetrators of this crime are known personally to their victims, are more often than not members of their family or extended family and on the whole, don’t need the added hurdle of the internet to ingratiate or force themselves into their victim’s lives. But it does happen online, and A/S/L (age/sex/location) are the big three questions you do not answer when approached by a stranger online.

This obvious, basic and common-sense knowledge clearly bypassed Perthshire Advertiser (who I refuse to reward with a link) reporter ANDREW WELSH. Actually that’s not fair, having trawled around online for Mr Welsh’s online presence I’m sorry to say he doesn’t have one, which for a so-called journalist in this day and age is pretty lamentable. So I can hardly accuse Mr Welsh of endangering his own privacy with the flippant release of his personal information online. No, Mr Welsh instead published enough information in his 26th October Perthshire Advertiser article, “School fight prank posted on Youtube” to positively identify a 15 year old girl. Not only did he publish this child’s A/S/L, he made this information public along with her Youtube ID. Should I wish to I can now give you this child’s phone number, her parent’s names, her household make-up, when they bought their home (and how much they paid for it), and an aerial photo of their street, all for free. For a paltry £2 I can get much much more.

So what exactly was Mr Andrew Welsh thinking or not as the case may be? There can be no journalistic merit in his actions, the so-called offensive video (more on that later) that prompted the article was long since removed and indeed his report said as much. Other than identifying this child there seems to have been no real purpose to publishing this information. As far as I am concerned this is a serious child protection issue and Mr Welsh needs to be called to account for his actions. If he had done this to my child you can rest assured he would be.


6 Responses to “A/S/L?”

  1. OllieBray October 28, 2007 at 10:39 pm #

    This is an excellent post. I am really pleased that you have written about this. I noticed the articles today and I was discussed with the way that the press decided to share the personal information (including age, sex, location, address and phone number) about this child. I hope that the press will respond formally about the huge mistake they have made here. Keep up the great work and I am glad you enjoyed our Internet Safety evening. Ollie

  2. MrsW October 29, 2007 at 3:08 pm #

    Thank you. I’m not at all confident of the press being even marginally aware enough to consider a response warranted. I suspect the PA online activity constitutes little more than checking their e-mail. Therefore I’ve done the decent thing and written to them directly :o) Watch this space (but not holding your breath or anything silly!)

  3. OllieBray October 29, 2007 at 7:05 pm #

    Good for you – I made a few phone calls about this myself today. OB

  4. Mr W November 1, 2007 at 10:32 pm #

    You have said so much more (and better) than I would have dared!

    It’s becoming so much more urgent that we start to address the issue of online safety, and unfortunately, pretending it isn’t an issue… or hiding behind firewalls is not the answer. As CoolCatTeacher said today, “Raise a bubble boy for 18 years and take him to the mall… he won’t live a week!”… we need to make sure kids are safe, but that isn’t going to happen if we can’t show them how to use the tools responsibly!

  5. Anonymous November 26, 2007 at 10:36 pm #

    I got very annoyed about this too, especially as I happen to know the person who this happened to. I have been told that this person could actually sue the paper, does anybody know if this is true?!

    I will comment on your other post about the actual video


  1. Online Safety… Not! « Mr W’s Blogging Great Thing - October 28, 2007

    […] the pupil at the ‘center’ of the story… so much for keeping children safe online. See what Mrs W has to say about it and then see if you […]

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