I am Kirra Pendergast, and it is with great excitement that I introduce our new monthly newsletter, a resource designed to keep parents, educators, and guardians informed about the dynamic and often challenging digital landscape our children are navigating.
Each month, we'll delve into the most pressing issues and trends that are capturing the attention of young people.
Our newsletter will feature contributions from Lenny Dowling, the head of our Youth Research Division and Madison Jones from our Youth Advisory Team whose deep understanding of digital trends and their impact on youth is invaluable.
We will tackle a range of topics, from the latest social media crazes and emerging online risks to practical advice on online safety.
Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge and tools necessary to guide and support the young individuals in your care as they explore the vast digital world. We believe that through awareness, education, and open dialogue, we can create a safer and more positive online experience for our children.
A note from Madison from our Youth Advisory on current trends
There's a notable trend of misinformation circulating, especially concerning topics like the complex Israel-Palestine situation. The volume and intensity of these discussions are both overwhelming and concerning, as it demonstrates how quickly unverified information can spread.
Remember the 'stop don't talk to me' dance from the days of Musical.ly? It's making a surprising comeback. While it may seem harmless, it's important to acknowledge the underlying tones of bullying within its lyrics. It serves as a reminder of how online trends can sometimes inadvertently promote negative behaviours.
The speculation surrounding Matthew Perry's death is another point of concern. Theories linking his death to suicide, based on superficial analysis of his writings and social media posts, are not just baseless but also show a lack of respect for his legacy. This trend highlights a broader issue of sensationalism overshadowing empathy and respect in online discourse.
On a lighter note, Taylor Swift's re-release of 1989 has sparked a flurry of activity among her fans. The level of engagement and enthusiasm in dissecting her lyrics for hidden messages is a testament to her influence and the power of fan communities.
A disturbing trend I've noticed is some young males boasting online about losing interest in their relationships as an excuse for infidelity. This trend is problematic as it normalises disrespect and dishonesty in relationships, an issue that deserves more serious attention and discussion.
In terms of my personal online activities, I've been educating myself on the Israel-Palestine conflict, a complex and significant issue that demands more understanding and empathy. Being unwell recently, I found solace in watching and creating reels, a pleasant distraction during recovery.
Halloween brought out my creative side, leading me to share costume ideas through reels.
I've also taken steps to curate a more positive social media environment, particularly by unfollowing individuals whose views, especially on racial issues, I found objectionable. It's a small but important step in promoting a more inclusive online space.
Regarding my peers, there's been a noticeable trend of 'rite of passage' posts related to partying, seemingly a way to affirm social status. The 'stop don't talk to me' dance is also popular, despite its problematic aspects. Instagram story stickers have become a new tool for expression, often used to highlight personal moments or favourites.
Weapons banned in UK apparently found on shopping app Temu - by Lenny Dowling: Consumer protection agency ‘Which?’ says it bought age-restricted knives and axes without checks from sellers in Temu. Temu markets itself as the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, though its user authentication requirements are far less stringent than most other online retailers.
Temu will not ask for date of birth, or any form of age verification, despite selling knives and other potentially banned, or at least dangerous, implements. Temu has been aggressively advertising through TikTok, which has led it to record nearly 39 million downloads worldwide in August of this year. Temu has now removed all related weapons listings such as knives and axes after receiving “a complaint of a person under 18 purchasing a bladed article from our platform.”
Cyber Incident at DP World Australia Shut Down Port Operations, Backed Up 30,000 Shipping Containers - by Lenny Dowling: The latest large-scale criminal attack on critical infrastructure shut down port operations across Australia over the weekend, prompting a backup of some 30,000 shipping containers that were unable to unload for several days. The attack, being characterised as a “cyber incident” by victim DP World Australia and still unattributed, appeared to have involved ransomware but without an accompanying ransom demand.
This DPWorld attack is yet another example of the pressing need for companies to begin taking malware and ransomware seriously, as we enter an age where techno-terrorism will become increasingly common, perpetrated by private groups in order to make money, and by state actors wishing to disrupt supply chains and undermine national security.
Bin Laden Manifesto Trending on Tik Tok - by Lenny Dowling: TikTok says it has been “aggressively removing” posts featuring Osama Bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America,’ written one year after the September 1st terrorist attack.
Interestingly, the letter had only initially garnered about 2 million views until X, formerly known as Twitter (Really, are we still doing this? It’s not like Elon Musk is anywhere near as cool as Prince, and don’t we all know that it’s changed by now anyway?), influencer Yashar Ali posted a compilation of existing reaction videos on TikTok, which sent the views of the hashtag #lettertoamerica to 13 million. TikTok then removed the hashtag #lettertoamerica from search results, while suppressing videos with the hashtag, and even videos of those criticizing the sudden and widespread endorsement of Bin Laden’s letter.
The Guardian newspaper was forced to remove its translation of Bin Laden’s letter from its website after outrage began bubbling up from all corners. The masthead, on whose website the letter had become the most viewed news story, said that it was taken down due to the fact that it had been “widely shared on social media without context.”
Nobody knows when the original post was made, or why the content has resurfaced now, of all times. In a moment where US lawmakers are directing increased scrutiny towards the already outsized and frankly monopolistic behaviours of social media companies like Meta, Tik Tok is only going to come under more pressure from governments. Even in a time where, in a mutual hot flush of geopolitical proportions, there seems to be a thawing of relations between the elder statesmen of China and the US, US government officials are not allowed to have Tik Tok installed on their devices for security reasons. It is evident that distrust remains, and the re-emergence of Bin Laden’s manifesto on Tik Tok, where there is a non-zero probability of CCP interference, will only engender greater scepticism from global policy makers.
The swift endorsement of Bin Laden’s message from Tik Tok users must, after all, be the exception rather than the rule, right? Phrases in one of the early paragraphs includes “the creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and [America] the leaders of its criminals,” and “Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily.”
Hence, we can immediately understand the swift popularisation of this text what is ow the context of renewed war between Israel and Gaza.
Piers Morgan Conducts Latest Andrew Tate Interview - by Lenny Dowling: Piers Morgan has released a second hour-long interview with Andrew Tate, almost a year after their previous discussion in London. Morgan flew out to Bucharest to meet and interview the Tate’s, challenging Andrew on his more recent controversial statements, as well as extracting Tate’s thoughts on his seemingly ongoing legal troubles, which include charges of rape and human trafficking, in allegations levied by the Romanian criminal courts.
The interview had garnered 2 million views in 12 hours and will likely see millions more by the end of the week. Questions were, of course, asked of Tate about his stance on the ongoing war between Israel and Gaza, while the two also clashed over the definition of misogyny.
While Tate had disappeared from the spotlight during his 3-month jail stint, he, as well as major independent media outlets, seem intent on rehashing the debates and talking points of the past. It doubtless makes for captivating content that drives audience engagement, while dividing many, which likewise furthers the popularity of such interviews. ______________________________________________________________