- The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) has launched three social media manuals that will provide Internet safety guidelines for children and other stakeholders.
- Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, noted that in May 2016, the OCA published the findings of a school-based study that was undertaken and spearheaded by the OCA’s research unit.
- “The results of these findings present to you the social media personas of the Jamaican child. It is these findings that highlighted the critical need for guidance on the responsible use of social media by our Jamaican children,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison said.
The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) has launched three social media manuals that will provide Internet safety guidelines for children and other stakeholders.
The manuals, dubbed #BESOCIALBESMART, were launched during a function held at The Knutsford Court Hotel today (November 20) and include the kiddie manual for children under 12 years; the teen manual; and the manual for adults, with special focus on parents and teachers.
Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, noted that in May 2016, the OCA published the findings of a school-based study that was undertaken and spearheaded by the OCA’s research unit.
She said the research involved visiting both primary and secondary schools across the island, where focus groups and other strategies were used to obtain critical information from children on the issue of social media.
“Some areas of focus that we covered include the Internet site that our children frequent and why, and what smartphone applications were our children using. We saw overwhelmingly that WhatsApp was the number-one platform,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison noted.
Focus was also placed on children who post photos of themselves online, whether provocative or otherwise, and on children who have agreed to meet in person someone who they only interface with online.
“The results of these findings present to you the social media personas of the Jamaican child. It is these findings that highlighted the critical need for guidance on the responsible use of social media by our Jamaican children,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison said.
She informed that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), through its steady and substantive support, “made this project come to fruition”.
The Children’s Advocate pointed out that all the manuals were informative, practical and user-friendly.
“We at the OCA understand that our children use social media and online platforms in different ways. Because we wanted the manuals to serve as an effective go-to guide, we did not want any information overload in any one manual, so discrete manuals were created for different age groups,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison said.
The children’s manual uses a relatable storyline that features Tanisha and her mother. It reveals how parents and adults in children’s lives can sometimes innocently expose them to danger.
“To guide the young reader, we have interwoven child-appropriate questions, a Sam Social Song and a Sally Social Poem, as well as our top tips to the little ones, all geared at keeping them alert and safe without unnerving them,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison noted.
The teen manual aims at enabling teenagers to connect the dots between the online social media world and the real world in which they still have to live.
“We help them to deal with difficult or uncomfortable social situations, how not to overshare or overexpose themselves (and) to have online danger attached to them, and also how to use the Internet for assignments and research,” Mrs. Gordon Harrison said.
The manual for adults covers topics such as keeping children safe online, warning signs, how to guide for smart social media use; parental controls and tools; what schools can do; and who to call for help.
Meanwhile, State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green, noted that the creation of the manuals was a step in the right direction.
“This is an essential part of what we have to do in this journey, in relation to how we communicate with our children, not only on the importance of social media, but also on the ills of social media.
We have to recognise that this is an area we have to pay keen attention to,” Mr. Green said.
The State Minister argued that Jamaican children are oversharing on the Internet, adding that “they are negatively impacting their future because of what they share on social media”.
“Social media has given us a false sense of security. It has convinced our children that it is a private space. We need to remove that fallacy from the minds of our children. Nothing on social media is private,” Mr. Green informed.
For his part, UNICEF Representative in Jamaica, Mark Connolly, while welcoming the manual, said it is also important to focus on how “social media can empower young people and strengthen their identity”.