Family Lives responds to Twitter troll row: MPs to question social media giant

“It’s vital that parents, children and professionals work in unison to forge stronger partnerships to tackle severe and deliberately targeted online abuse and bullying throughout the UK.  The Communications Act needs to be brought up to date to encompass modern social media.  Children –and indeed adults– can on occasion make stupid, off the cuff and in extreme examples wholly inappropriate online remarks that warrant further investigation and censure.  Misusing online social media could have a prolonged and lasting impact on an individual’s future prospects if they are attributed to offensive statements.  An issue of greater concern is the targeting of female campaigners by ‘trolls’ who promote and suggest acts of violence in response to recent gender equality campaigns.  Our recent report: ‘All of Our Concern’ found that extreme male gender identity – such as hypermasculinity- means that cultural expectations promote an adversarial relationship with females who are viewed as deficient, ‘other’ or dangerous.   

The graphic content in music videos, ‘porno chic’ in advertising; sexualised representations of women and men in the media; the marketing of clothing and accessories that sell or represent sexualised identities all demonstrate that mainstream media makes sex – and therefore the objectification of women -  much more visible and its viability and imagery now wallpapers children’s lives.  In particular, Family Lives believes that unless young people are educated about the unrealistic nature of sex as portrayed via distorted and ubiquitous online pornographic images via Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) sessions there is a danger that young people will develop unhealthy and unrealistic expectations about relationships.     

In an online survey, Bullying UK, part of Family Lives, found that 43.5% of respondents aged 11-16 had been bullied via social networks such as Facebook, Bebo, Myspace, Twitter.  51% felt that blocking the bully from further contact or communication was a vital tool and a further 68 % felt that being able to report the perpetrator’s bullying activities would be advantageous.  Of 49,723 calls taken by Family Lives via its free 24/7 Parentline, Live Chat and Email support services during the period April 2012 – March 2013  - 2,723 concerned bullying in its various forms.

We want to encourage families to get involved in our ‘1 Million Families’ campaign to create and spread their own message to ensure that existing and future generations do not experience bullying which can affect their emotional wellbeing, academic and professional achievement.  To support the campaign please visit Family Lives’ 1 Million Families campaign

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive