Who are you talking to on Facebook tonight?

I have to take issue on how the media is exploiting Facebook in the recent Ashleigh Hall murder trial. I appreciate it is a terrible thing to have happened however as much as every newspaper can question about how safe Facebook is on their front pages, I must say that Facebook is merely a catalyst in this whole situation. To me it is down to bad parenting.

It is all too easy to 'blame' Facebook. We live in blame culture. In my opinion Facebook has done very well to control privacy. Facebook allows you to block all your details to people you don't know. You also have to give permission to anyone who wishes to add you. You are in control, you don't know them: don't add them.

Parents will ask how are they to know who their children are talking to and I sympathise with that. As a parent you can add software which can block websites you don't wish them to view, however Facebook and the likes of Bebo are very much at the centre of teenage social media. It would be difficult for parents to block websites such as Facebook without the fear of excluding them. Unfortunately parents can't control who their sons or daughters are talking to on sites such as Facebook. You either block the site altogether or invade their privacy.

You then rely on education which is drilled in to us all from primary school which is don't talk to strangers. There isn't anyone on my Facebook who I don't know however I can appreciate that innocent testosterone fueled teenagers may add people who they don't know and are good looking to their Facebook profile. (Let's face it, it's easier than a date: you don't like 'em just block 'em!). So while we are not strictly following the don't talkto strangers rule here there should be a degree of education where we should be cautious of people we don't know.

Now this is all well and good until they decide to meet up. Parents will then ask "how do I know who they are meeting up with?".

In Ashleigh Hall's case she had befriended a 33 year old rapist who was portraying a 19 year old boy. Chapman the offender had advised (acting as the 19 year old boy), that his Dad was picking her up so she wouldn't be freaked by the old man parked up outside her house.

When questioned Mrs Hall commented "What could I have done?" she asked. "She was 17. You don't stop your kids from going

I'm sorry but if that was me I would go and introduce myself to this Dad. My daughter is meeting a boy for the first time and he hasn't arrived with his Dad?

If I had a son or daughter I would like to think I knew them pretty well. I would know where they are going, who with and the basic time I would expect them home. Yes they could make it up, however I would be sure I would know my own son and daughter to know when they were lying: not looking into my eye, different clothing, more make up, more perfume - surely there would be signals. I know that I personally wouldn't wear the same clothes on a first date than if I was going shopping with my mates.

Secondly if I did know my daughter was meeting someone off the internet I would want to know some basic details at least and go with her, not to be obtusive, but to be there in the distance when I drop her off.

Terrible as they are, instances like Ashleigh Hall's have happened through out time without Facebook, just look at the Moors Murders or Jack The Ripper.

It isn't Facebook. It is sensible parenting, creating awareness and having care and consideration to sons and daughters which will prevent these instances.

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