(Written on 04 February 2020)
The news today is reporting that about half of 10 year old children have smart phones. Surprisingly this blog is not about the dangers inherent in children being able to access this level of technology, and the risks they run through on line communication with strangers for example. No, this is about the news itself.
Smart phones often come preloaded with some form of news channel which presents users with a range of news sources that can provide those waiting for buses and trains, for example, with a seemingly endless selection of serious news stories alongside the current exploits of Dancing on Ice, Strictly or Love Island stars. The sources also give regular updates on royal fashions, botched operations, failures to diagnose serious illnesses and miracle cures. The sheer breadth is quite astonishing. No wonder whole train carriages can be glued to their tiny screens, and that’s not counting those who are active on social media.
No doubt some of us select a preferred news source as well and download the relevant app according to our view of the world or political persuasion. We know that if we only read commentaries that we are likely to agree with, these can act as an echo chamber to re-inforce our own beliefs. This has been true for centuries of course, but it’s the ease of access to multiple news sources that’s new and enables us to get swift and easy access to a wide range of alternative perspectives. That’s without any consideration of fake news as well.
When we look at complex issues in our safeguarding world, it’s essential to get the all-round view of a situation, so that we don’t approach it through blinkered vision. This is not about seeking easy explanations or mitigation but making a real effort to try to understand the actions, attitudes, and beliefs that have shaped behaviour that may be a concern. If we want to appreciate what makes people tick or behave the way they do, then being aware of the factors that influence them is crucial. The earlier offence of the young man shot in Streatham on Sunday was connected with the distribution of terrorist literature.
So to return to our smart phones, the stories on offer can provide an interesting diversion as we contemplate a long wait for public transport. But they do tell us something about what our highly diverse communities are fascinated with.