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From Ian Mcarthur, creative director and head of brand marketing, NSPCC

Here’s a micro-slice of Twitter at work. I was searching Twitter for interesting conversations about Twitter and I stumbled across tweets about the piece in new media age around regulation (nma26 February 2009). So I checked it out and tweeted myself about wishing I’d commented. That was picked up by nma staff following me and I was invited to write a short piece about tweeters which, once completed, I’ll tweet about. That was all in half a day.

My point is that Twitter represents the sharpest tool in the social media box, one so simple and yet so polished it can connect people with common interests across the globe in seconds.

I find this chilling from a child-protection perspective . It doesn’t take much imagination to guess how it might be used by those who target children. Although Twitter’s limited interface seems more harmless than the more sophisticated platforms, it’s the likelihood of children using them in tandem that adds a new dimension of risk. A sophisticated abuser has the ability to scour MySpace and Facebook to build a profile of a child they want to groom, and might now add Twitter to the mix.

Another worry is that Twitter may help child sex offenders who take part in organised abuse or trafficking stay one step ahead of the law.

I welcome any environment that enables children and young people the freedom to express themselves, provided it’s secure. Although it hasn’t caught fire yet, we know from our participation work with young people that Twitter is the next offering on their hit list. Its simplicity and efficiency, especially on mobile, will no doubt prove intoxicating, but it may take a while for them to establish exactly what value it can add to their ‘real friends’ network.

By contrast, early-adopting adults are already tweeting en masse and a core part of the NSPCC’s relationship with that audience is to engender behaviour change. How will those most influential in the twittersphere harness the groundswell to do good? A super-connected community shouldn’t tolerate such sinister misuse of technology and I believe that collectively we have the power to make Twitter a safer place for young people in more creative ways than have been achieved elsewhere in the social media landscape.

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Published 12 March, 2009 by NMA Staff

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