Leeds pupils highlight benefits and dangers of the online world

Pupils discuss issues on web and social Media at Allerton High School, King Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme
Pupils discuss issues on web and social Media at Allerton High School, King Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme
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Pupils at a school in Leeds have spoken of how the online world is a double-edged sword for children and young people.

Students at Allerton High School spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post about the pros and cons of social media to mark Safer Internet Day today.

Helen Westerman, campaigns manager at the NSPCC

Helen Westerman, campaigns manager at the NSPCC

The global awareness day aims to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for youngsters and encourage conversations at home and in school about children’s online lives.

All but one of a group of nine pupils at Allerton High School, aged between 11 and 15, were regular users of social media –having each joined up around the age of nine.

‘Parents play a key role in children’s internet safety’, says NSPCC

While all said their experience so far has been largely positive, they acknowledged there were risks and downsides to the online world.

The two most popular apps used by the group were image-sharing networks Instagram and Snapchat, with only one or two of the pupils using Facebook.

Worryingly, each pupil reported being contacted on the apps at some point by a stranger.

Year 10 pupil Chloe, 15, said: “On my friend requests [list] I have about 25 people who I haven’t said ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to, that I don’t know. There are some a lot older than me. It makes you wonder how they get to your profile in the first place.”

Year seven pupil Harrison, 11, said he’d been contacted by someone in Russia, and year eight pupil Ben, 13, admitted he’d been contacted from people in Singapore and China.

All of the pupils agreed that the controversial new ‘Snapchat map’ was a bad idea.

The app’s new map – which allows users to see the locations of their friends at all times, unless they disable the function – has hit the headlines for fears it could put children at risk.

Year 10 pupil Arielle, 14, said: “I think it’s really dangerous because you know that probably at 10pm at night they are going to be in their house so if you’re local you can figure out where they live. I don’t see the point.”

Chloe added: “You can literally see what street you live on, with the outlines of the house you’re in.”

Year 10 pupil Hannah, 15, said: “They shouldn’t have introduced it.”

As well as people being “fake” and “not themselves” on social media, the group agreed that another major issue caused by communicating online is the risk of misunderstanding each other.

Chloe said: “I think a lot of arguments at school start off on Snapchat or on your phone. It’s like miscommunication. Someone’s sent a message and meant it not in a harmful way but another person has read it as being offensive or mean. They might have said a joke but they’ve not taken it as a joke.”

The students said school assemblies had provided them with much of their knowledge on how to stay safe online but consensus among the group was they might not tell parents of negative experiences for fear they would “overreact” and take their phones off them.