MSP to give online safety message to young people

Gillian Martin MSP with Evie Robertson and Josh MacRae
Gillian Martin MSP with Evie Robertson and Josh MacRae

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin has warned of the dangers online for young people across the region.

The politician is backing plans alongside two MSYPs to encourage their peers to talk about the pressures they face from social media.

The move comes after a mum spoke out following an incident involving images of her daughter shared online.

Ms Martin, who herself has a 14-year-old daughter, was prompted to have a conversation about the dangers young people are now exposed to on social media.

Speaking in parliament she said: “People who have teenagers walk a fine line between giving them freedom and trust to find their own path and keeping a watchful eye to protect them.

“My speech today comes from a personal place – that of a mum who is struggling to know how safe my child is online and what I can do to protect her.”

The politician went on to discuss how she learned from her daughter and her peers about other youngsters were forced to send “nudes for nudes” which could also lead to bullying with images used as ammunition between friendship groups.

Ms Martin also spoke quoted first person experiences from the two youth politicians in her area.

She quoted Evie Robertson, who said: “Nowadays young people often feel pressured to say or do things, and often broadcast them on social media. Often seemingly harmless at firs, however it can then escalate to very hurtful comments, and this often has a very damaging effect on the victim and their mental health.

“There is also the looming pressure to send indecent images to other people via social media.

“There is often very little that can be done to prevent the spread of images once they are sent, but if we can educate younger children before they reach their teenage years then we may have a chance to reduce incidents of images being sent in the first place.”

Next month, Ms Martin will hold a forum with youth politicians Evie Robertson and Josh MacRae as well as other young people to discuss what steps can be taken to have a more frank and open conversation around protecting yourself online.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said: “As the mother of a 14-year-old girl, I was horrified to learn of an incident involving another female and a group of older boys.

“Teaching young people about how to protect themselves, but also about standing up against pressures from their peers is a must.

“It can be difficult to comprehend the dangers young people are now facing and it is only through creating an open dialogue with them that we can know of the pressures they face and try and prevent them becoming victim to doing something they wouldn’t otherwise online.

“For me, that conversation with my daughter was the beginning, and it must continue on so that cases such as the one highlighted in the Press and Journal can be prevented in the future.”

"As important is making parents aware of the pressures young people experience online, and empowering them to have those often difficult conversations with their children. With Josh and Evie's help I hope to give space to young people to inform those conversations.”