Face­book is scarier than drugs to par­ents

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JOHN ROLFE

PAR­ENTS are more con­cerned about their chil­dren’s use of so­cial me­dia and tech­nol­ogy than them tak­ing drugs, drink­ing al­co­hol or smok­ing, new re­search shows.

And cy­ber-bul­ly­ing is their big­gest fear.

Youth men­tal health ex­perts said in­ac­tion by Face­book and Twit­ter has caused a na­tional cri­sis, while top lawyers claim the so­lu­tion is to reg­u­late so­cial me­dia and re­form the law so those in­jured by on­line hate can sue.

“These plat­forms are like the Wild West,” Mau­rice Black­burn board mem­ber Josh Born­stein said. “Chil­dren can ter­rorise other chil­dren, peo­ple can set up ac­counts in your name or my name and then spew bile all over the in­ter­net, send out neo-Nazi or an­tiMus­lim hate or con­tent in sup­port of ISIS and en­cour­age peo­ple to be at­tacked and the sites have been no­to­ri­ously slow to act or failed to act at all over a num­ber of years now.

“As soon as Face­book has its first law­suit from some­one in­jured by cy­ber bul­ly­ing or cy­ber hate, that would have a mas­sive im­pact.”

Youth men­tal health ser­vice ReachOut be­lieves com­mu­nity safety is un­der threat due to the neg­li­gence of Face­book and oth­ers.

ReachOut CEO Jono Ni­cholas said the so­cial me­dia plat­forms’ tech­nol­ogy had made it too easy for bul­lies to ha­rass.

“This is a na­tional cri­sis,” he said. “It is a real is­sue for ev­ery par­ent rais­ing a teenager now.” New re­search by ReachOut re­veals more than 40 per cent of par­ents are ei­ther ex­tremely wor­ried or very wor­ried about their chil­dren’s ex­po­sure to so­cial me­dia and tech­nol­ogy. Only 25 per cent hold sim­i­lar fears about al­co­hol, drugs and smok­ing.

The re­sults come from an Aus­tralia-wide sur­vey of 890 par­ents with at least one child aged 12-18.

A Face­book spokesman said it would work with ReachOut on ad­dress­ing con­cerns. “We con­stantly lis­ten to feed­back and in­no­vate to keep peo­ple safe by in­tro­duc­ing new fea­tures and tools,” he said.

A Twit­ter spokesman said it had “taken ma­jor sys­temic steps” to im­prove the plat­form.

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