This weekend, my daughter (aged 15) received her first death threat on Twitter. She’d had, in that user’s opinion, had the audacity to comment on a video saying it was “Absolutely disgraceful” that Aguero had intentially grabbed the linesman (lady) by the neck.
Nov 6th: Edit – this video has now been removed from YouTube – there are various versions online should you wish to find them.
That screenshot shows that there might have been a differing of opinion between the two of them. If you watch the video, it shows the touch round her neck was a deliberate action – which in the rules of football, is a bookable offence. The linesman handled the whole situation extremely professionally – and the twitterverse went nuts.
My daughter loves sport. She’s a keen wheelchair basketball player, follows both the men’s and women’s game in football and loves anything Olympic or Paralympic related. She is fortunate to have spent time with para-athletes of the highest level including some that are (when they’re allowed back to train), a regular part of her life. She’s also one of the 18 advocates for GirlGuiding who speak out, on behalf of GirlGuiding, about issues that affect women and girls today. As part of that, she’s done 2 days full media training.
When I first started running the DigitalJen kitchen table courses I was determined that I was going to change the social media world for tweens and teens. I’d studied the brain science, the human behaviour and the tactics (named “mind hacking”) that advertisers used to hook different age groups into online content – again and again. Alongside this, I witnessed through my work with GirlGuiding and as a parent, the damage to the self worth of young people, the truly hideous behaviours exhibited online and the bullying, violence, self harm and everything else that came with it.
I wanted to change that – to make parents and schools aware of what was going on and help them find a better way to introduce their kids to social media. As our next generation going into the workforce, they need to be social media savvy – but also be decent human beings.
The main problem was, not many people wanted to come on those courses. Schools wanted the content and support (for free, obviously) but weren’t prepared to ensure the online behaviour of their staff was controlled – therefore making it impossible to ‘model’ good behaviour to parents. Whilst most teaching staff were actutely aware of their online digital footprint, many support staff weren’t – and many weren’t happy with the idea of their employer controlling what they did, and didn’t write online. I was on a losing battle.
Back to the tweet She told me it had happened. She showed me the tweet. She found it marginally amusing – ignoring someone had taken a picture of her playing wheelchair basketball and said they’d wheel her off Beachy Head. She’d reported it to Twitter and got some of her other GirlGuiding advocates to do the same.
We looked at the video/picture together. Was her response an overreaction, could it all be misconstrued? Was it a fair response? As I said right at the beginning – this was a bookable offence. However, we don’t know the conversation – we were just surmising that he wasn’t happy with her decision. Would he have done it to a male official – probably not. Was it ‘absolutely disgraceful’? – in her opinion, yes.
This action by, what looks to be someone who trolls Twitter on an active basis, was threatening her life. She took it in her stride – as if her first death threat was some rite of passage. She has chosen to use Twitter – she enjoys it, she needs to be present on it to help her get funding for wheelchair basketball training and to help speak out on the GirlGuiding issues she’s involved with. It was only a matter of time before something unpleasant happened.
By Sunday morning, some of the tweets had gone. Not all of them and there are some pretty unpleasant memes going around about the whole incident. By Monday morning the account of the person who had sent this tweet (and, I shall add, a whole host of other ones which were all, in my opinion, offensive, inappropriate and the hallmarks of a twitter troll trying to goad a response) had been suspended. Twitter had concluded that whilst the tweet didn’t break their community guidelines it did class as abuse. I’m still trying to fathom that one. There was no advice to report it to the Police as a disability hate crime – which it is. At what point did a death threat become par for the course?!
She’s of the opinion she can use what happened to create a force for good. As part of that, I’m writing this. Stuff like this happens. It’s horrible. We as parents, mentors, volunteers, leaders and future employers need to know it happens and that our young people are being exposed to it.
We need to have a responsibility to keep the conversation with our young people open whilst ensuring that they still feel entitled to have an opinion, their views are valid and that they can be both a force for good and, to put it bluntly, be bang out of order.
I definitely don’t advocate the micro-managing of your young person’s social media accounts. I do thoroughly encourage having a policy whereby you can look at their phone at any time and without question. We need an internet and social media savvy generation coming into the workforce more than ever. The amount of business that’s now being done online is not going to drop back down to pre-Covid levels.
What we need more than those skills though is a generation who realise that making death threats on social media is unequivocally wrong and that being kind will get you far further in life. Maybe our experience this weekend, will go a little way towards making that happen.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help young people (and their parents) to get to grips with social media, just get in touch