Social media legal advice for parents
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What to do when you child requires legal advice in connection to the use of social media
An increasing number of parents call us for legal advice with the aim to enable them to support their teenage children. Social media can be extremely harsh and so can the consequences of misusing it. Often, just a few moments of teenage clumsiness could result in serious harm to the child’s reputation, education, well-being and in extreme cases in the child’s arrest by the police.
Since 2009, social media use has been on the rise and unfortunately so has the suicide rate in teenagers. Social media provides a comfort blanket to users who feel as though they are missing out on life when they are not with their friends, and in general gives young people a chance to freely vocalise their opinions and to spread their thoughts and feelings. Often this leads to seclusion and to a sense of disconnection between the teenager and the his or her parents.
As a rule of thumb, boys are more likely to use social media for the purposes of gaming whilst girls have been more exposed to the harmful side of social media as they tend to text more and use platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. However, the risk of committing a criminal act that could result in serious damage to the child, is higher among boys than girls.
Teenage girls often blame boys for their own lack of judgment, and it is the boys who are more likely to end up with ruin reputation and in some cases with a police investigation, for their part of the interaction. A 2018 NHS survey of the mental health of children and young people in England, revealed that one in four girls experienced cyberbullying in comparison to one in six boys.
It is unclear whether boys are more resentful cyberbullying or whether the statistics represents call for parents of girls to be more vigilant and alert. In any event, often cyberbullying and harassment online, involve both boys and girls, who in both cases, are in need of help and support.
In the USA, the second most common cause of death in teenagers is by suicide and there is an increasing amount of evidence to support, what many already know, that social media use is linked to high suicide rates mong teenagers. Whilst digital companies have a duty of care to protect their young uses this duty of care is tragically neglected in most case, which leave many parents extremely worried and concerned.
In 2019, a UK report on social media concluded that 69% of teenagers aged between 12 – 15 had a social media account and that 99% of them use social media for over 21 hours a week. Social media tends to infiltrate the minds of young people, in a way that is new and often is difficult for parents to comprehend.
Furthermore, it is common for young people to not know what to do when something distressing happens to them and instead, they panic or feel embarrassed or become highly secluded with withdrawn. Teenagers who often feel insecure, may suffer the backlash of social media as a result of low self-esteem and low self-image, which might explain why may teenagers gradually alter their appearance, voices, facial expression and behaviour, based on what they see on social media.
Teenagers might also find themselves in a position where they justify their views and beliefs through the number of “likes” they receive on content they post, which fuels a desire to engage with their followers on social media and to attract more and more attention for themselves. In many cases, praises by parents, other family members and friends of the teenager, lose their important meaning in favour of social media likes and thumbs up.
Of course, although on the face of it, social media connections may appear to be positive but the downside is that they could signal the beginning of a downward spiral of hate, torment and resistance for the teenager. Saying this, at least for a short time, social media positive feedbacks may give young people a sense of purpose and a sense of being wanted and being supported, even by complete strangers who become friends online due to sharing similar interests.
There are so many facets, which can be investigated when assessing the power and the influence that social media has on teenagers, from examples where their sexuality is mocked online leaving teenagers feeling worthless to issues of race and body shape.
Yet it is sometimes difficult for teenagers to draw the line between content, which is harmful in comparison with content which is not harmful, because everyone as human beings interpret things that they see differently. This truth is the truth that most often get teenagers into legal troubles in connection with their use of social media.
Situations on social media platforms can escalate to online cyber bullying between peers at school, and making fun of people through being able to freely stream live footage or videos where the goal is to make fun of someone. What is most disconcerting is that young people often fail to realise the full extent of their actions on social media, and the lives that they could be putting at risk for the sake of attracting likes and followers. For example, where a teenager might watch a movie online, or view a photo of self-harm, this could cause them to copy this behaviour and to almost glorify it.
The cycle then continues as more and more children learn the behaviour as well. Your teenage son or daughter could find themselves at either side of a misfortune. Whether the they are the bully or the one being bullied, whether they are the person who sent nude images or the one who requested or offered them.
Whether the one who acted in a moment of teenage silliness or the once who suffered the immediate consequences of it. This firm is never judgmental, and we understand that it is in the nature of being a teenager to end up regretting some of your actions. We offer social media legal advice to parents who need it regardless on what side your child happened to be.
Teenagers and their parents must know that they cannot rely on social media companies for legal support. There are laws which protect teenagers from online harm, from receiving malicious communications, from online bullying, and from exploitation although, often, teenagers are very limited in scope to decipher what content is classed as being the most harmful. Indeed, where social media can be held responsible in relation to teenage suicide, in comparison to other life external forces, it is common that those who suffer, already have mental health struggles, and social media only serves to amplify those struggles. It appears social media has the ultimate monopoly when it comes to deciding what it chooses to pay attention too in comparison to what it should pay attention to.
After all, if digital companies such as Instagram and Facebook have the power to track our likes and interests, followers and views, then surely they should have the power to monitor indications of cyberbullying, substance abuse, body shaming and suicidal interest to name but a few.
Since young people and teenagers heavily rely on the internet, they have also learned to trust it and to believe what they read and see where content has clearly not been filtered or checked by social media giants. Therefore, where harmful content is displayed, and malicious communications are sent, online users may feel helpless because the internet is permitting this interaction to happen.
The internet, the tool which parents use for information, which teachers use to teach a class, which friends use to upload happy memories, it’s all too powerful for anyone to comprehend. Therefore, a child is likely to feel the burden of the power of social media and this may cause them to feel alone and as though the internet has turned against them. Teenagers need to know that they can vocalise their unhappy thoughts and opinions, and people need to be aware that sheltering a child with parental locks, and supervision is not always the answer.
It is more likely that if we educate teenagers to understand what harmful communications are, and what constitutes as a harassing communication will deter them from falling blindly into the toxic environment of social media, given they are prepared for it, and they are aware that there is somewhere they can go for safety.
Our lawyers interact on a daily basis with worried parents who call us in a state of panic, where their children have been exposed to online bullying and other forms of online exploitation and they are scared. These parents do not know where to turn. Either the police shrug the online abuse off as being unimportant as it is between children, or teachers at the schools do not understand the severity and consequences that could lie ahead if action is not taken. We understand that as a parent it is important to do all you can to protect your child, and we are here to help and to offer reassurance and full comprehensive advice.
Parents who call us, usually want our reassurance and they want to protect their children from depression, further abuse and more worrisomely, from a fatal end. Although it is important where children are concerned, to tread carefully with matters such as these, because children might not even be aware of the hurt and damage they are causing and they may just view their actions as entertainment and drama.
We have previously been able to offer parents legal guidance and advice in relation to keeping their children safe on social media, and in several cases we have written a letter to the wrongdoer to ask them to put an end to their behaviour else otherwise they risk facing the legal consequences.
On a more practical level, we offer specialist police station legal representation for anyone, including teenagers who have been arrested or invited by the police for an investigation, in connection with their use of social medial. Each of our lawyers who provide police station representation is fully police station accredited with at least 20 years of experience in providing police station legal representation.
All our police station representative lawyers are expert social media lawyers who are able to forensically consider evidence and who are trained in providing specialist police station legal representation for people who had been questioned by the police in connection with their user of social media.
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Our lawyers are highly experienced in obtaining emergency injunctions to protect teenagers from harassment and from breach of their privacy. Our lawyers specialise in facilitating the removal of defamatory and harassing social media posts and in delicately running a legal case on behalf of parents and their teenagers’ children.
All members of our legal team will be happy to assist you, as a parent, to provide you and your family with the legal support that you need in connection with your teenagers’ use of social media.