I’m Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University, with a particular interest in digital culture, especially within faith and values-focused organisations. Previous roles in academia include ‘Senior Fellow in Technology Enhanced Learning’ alongside temporary lectureships, web editorial work, and research projects (including into web accessibility and usability, and a JISC funded project into organisational change) at the University of Winchester, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning at Durham University, and Interdisciplinary Research Officer at the University of Manchester. My history PhD (2004) focused upon ‘The planning, design and reception of British home front propaganda posters of the Second World War’, including the original history of the now infamous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On Poster’.
I have been Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint since 2001, with clients including Girlguiding, The National Archives, NCVO, and a range of universities and Christian organisations. My emphasis is upon the digital is as enabler, rather than as a replacement for other communications media. I am author of Raising Children in a Digital Age (Lion Hudson, 2014), which reprinted five months after publication, and has recently been translated into Italian, with Chinese following later in the year. The Financial Times described the book as ‘sensible’ in a sea of scare texts around the topic of children and the internet. I have been on flagship shows such as The One Show (BBC One), Steve Wright in the Afternoon (BBC Radio 2) and BBC News, whilst local and specialist media frequently asks for comment or opinion pieces on aspects related to digital culture.
Managing negative use of social media and cyberbullying
The material on cyberbullying was some of the most difficult to write for Raising Children in a Digital Age, because there is no ‘magic bullet’ to deal with it, the factors involved are complex, and for those affected, it’s hugely problematic. Youth sectors of the church have asked for talks on managing bullying, and it always comes up in wider discussions, as bullying is believed to have increased with the always-on nature of digital technology. The New York Times noted in early 2013, there’s been a huge surge in anti-bullying books, spurred on by media coverage, particularly of high-profile cases where social media has “driven” users to suicide. The media suggestion that there is a cyberbullying epidemic tends to encourage (children) to think that they can send hurtful messages because “everyone else is doing it”. Whilst these worst-case scenarios are tragic, most are much more complex than the headlines would have us believe. Headlines typically fall for the argument of “technological determinism”: a sense that each new form of technology comes with new ways of doing things, in which we have no say, and no resistance. It is more helpful to understand that all new technologies come with new possibilities for ways of doing things, some good and some bad, and that we have choices about how we put them to use: whether that form of technology is the Biro, a watch, an iPad, a rocket, or a nuclear bomb. There are no easy answers, but certainly plenty to talk about.
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