Sun | Dec 17, 2017

OCA launches social media manuals

Published:Wednesday | November 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Diahann Gordon Harrison
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The Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) has launched three social media manuals that will provide Internet safety guidelines for children and other stakeholders.

The manuals, dubbed #BESOCIALBESMART, were launched during a function held at Knutsford Court Hotel on Monday and include the kiddie manual for children under 12 years; the teen manual; and the manual for adults, with special focus on parents and teachers.

Children's Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, noted that in May 2016, the OCA published the findings of a school-based study that was undertaken and spearheaded by the OCA's research unit.

She said the research involved visiting both primary and secondary schools across the island, where focus groups and other strategies were used to obtain critical information from children on the issue of social media.

"Some areas of focus that we covered include the Internet sites that our children frequent and why, and what smartphone applications were our children using. We saw overwhelmingly that WhatsApp was the number-one platform," Gordon Harrison noted.

Focus was also placed on children who post photos of themselves online, whether provocative or otherwise, and on children who have agreed to meet in person someone who they only interface with online.

 

NEED FOR GUIDANCE

 

"The results of these findings present to you the social media personas of the Jamaican child. It is these findings that highlighted the critical need for guidance on the responsible use of social media by our Jamaican children," Gordon Harrison said.

She informed that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), through its steady and substantive support, "made this project come to fruition".

The Children's Advocate pointed out that all the manuals were informative, practical and user-friendly.

"We at the OCA understand that our children use social media and online platforms in different ways. Because we wanted the manuals to serve as an effective go-to guide, we did not want any information overload in any one manual, so discrete manuals were created for different age groups," Gordon Harrison said.

Education through story and song

The children's social media manual launched by the Office of the Children's Advocate, uses a relatable storyline that features Tanisha and her mother. It reveals how parents and adults in children's lives can sometimes innocently expose them to danger.

"To guide the young reader, we have interwoven child-appropriate questions, a Sam Social Song and a Sally Social Poem, as well as our top tips to the little ones, all geared at keeping them alert and safe without unnerving them," Children's Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison noted.

The teen manual aims at enabling teenagers to connect the dots between the online social media world and the real world in which they still have to live.

"We help them to deal with difficult or uncomfortable social situations, how not to overshare or overexpose themselves (and) to have online danger attached to them, and also how to use the Internet for assignments and research," Gordon Harrison said.

The social media manual for adults covers topics such as keeping children safe online, warning signs, how to guide for smart social media use; parental controls and tools; what schools can do; and who to call for help.