Syrian refugees & Aylan Kurdi: how a photo transformed our newsfeeds

Social media expert Tony Lee talks to Liam and Robbie at 96five FM about the controversy surrounding Aylan Kurdi and the photo that shocked the world into attention. But what does it mean for keeping our kids safe from explicit or distressing content? Our culture of social sharing predicates the need for some awareness for people to beware what you share.


96five: We’re Liam and Robbie on the family show this morning. Can we just take a couple of minutes to talk about keeping your kids safe online? Tony Lee is about to join us from ntegrity agency. Those images your kids see that you just can’t take back. A lot of people are talking about, and Robbie you’ll be aware of that little three-year-old Syrian refugee boy that was washed up on a beach. It was tragic, it was terrible. A lot of us got exposed to those images online. You can’t always control some of the things that pop up on the news sites, especially when they’re at school and stuff like that – the lasting impact. Morning Tony, how are you mate?

Tony: I’m very well thank you.

96five: It’s hard to keep our kids safe, but we really have got to be across it, don’t you.

Tony: You really do. I mean that image did shock the world into attention. It demonstrates the power and magnitude a single image – fuelled by social media – can have in mobilising humanity into action.

96five: How do you feel we need to be careful of kids though, seeing that kind of thing?

Tony: Well there’s no doubt that that photo changed our newsfeeds forever. It was very confronting, there was a lot of social backlash, or sadness and distress. Some people were very very upset; some people were very highly affronted. But it did start an open, honest, and raw conversation the world really needed to have – even if we weren’t ready for it. In our culture of sharing, I guess it’s important that people do think about what they are sharing, because every small action leads to bigger things in your social network.

96five: Yeah I guess it’s not just the stuff that we can’t control online, but you have the power to control what pops up on your social feeds, whether it’s something you’re reposting on Facebook – you might not remember who gets access to that. You can control some of these images yourself.

Tony: Absolutely, Facebook now makes it even easier for you to be very selective about who you share content with. You also have greater control over what you see on Facebook. So next to every post you can select ‘I don’t want to see this’ as an option, which over time changes what Facebook serves to you.

96five: So where do we start when it comes to keeping the kids safe? I mean we’ve obviously got security settings and we’ve talked about keeping the computer out in the lounge room where we can see it. Where do you see us navigating our way through, when these are such real events. I mean, we’ve got a couple of TV screens on here this morning and all we’re seeing is Syria this, and refugee that. It’s pretty hard to avoid it. What do we do?

Tony: Well it’s very confronting, and I guess that ultimately people just need to be aware that social media is a one to many open dialogue. So before you like or share that content, think about who is on your friend list. Maybe even create mini lists to only share explicit content with people who you know will be receptive to that kind of communication. And be aware of anyone who’s on that list. You can also minimise stress by introducing what you see with a warning or a disclaimer, or consider talking about the issue without showing the imagery – link to it off your feed – of using a pixelated version of the imagery instead.

96five: Oh yeah. And I suppose on the upside, if that’s the right word, one thing social media has done is just the instant nature of when there is something horrible happening on one side of the world (just forgetting about the images that you don’t want kids to see for a moment) at least it allows the world to know what’s going on quickly so that they can respond quickly.

Tony: That’s right, I mean it’s a very important issue and I guess that in many ways the momentum the image spurred was actually truly heartwarming – we saw evidence of that in Germany with people flocking to Munich train station to welcome refugees: an image that would have been quite unheard of several years ago. And even last night, thousands of Australians demonstrating their support for the Syrian refugees and to honour the memory of Aylan Kurdi at the Light The Dark vigil in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth – and I understand that Brisbane has one scheduled on Friday as well.

96five: It might even be a good idea – and I know this wasn’t where we were headed – but you could give it a wide berth for a couple of days. I mean at the moment, just with the news cycle, you know you’re going to get bombarded for two or three days and maybe even just detoxing yourself and spending time with your kids and refocusing on what’s important might just be a good call, to have a couple of days off just until it all dies down because unfortunately, they’re going to see things. It’s just going to happen unless you take drastic measures.

Tony: That’s really good advice, and I think ultimately it comes down to making sure that kids are protected from seeing information and seeing imagery that might distress them so it’s important for parents to play a proactive role in managing that.

96five: We’re keeping your kids safe on social media – Tony Lee from ntegrity agency. That’s for the tips mate, we’ll talk to you soon.

Tony: Thanks so much.

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