A grassroots movement to make social media sites such as Facebook safe for kids has started in B.C.
Spearheaded by Sandy Garossino, a former Crown prosecutor and civic activist, the campaign seeks to address security gaps in major social media sites that expose children and young teens to risk to predators and abusers online.
Named for Red Riding Hood and her encounter with a wolf, The Red Hood Project is the first of campaign to put the onus on industry to institute measures to secure online safety.
Garossino and more than 20 other British Columbians have signed a letter imploring social media giants, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, for change.
“While educating kids to be Internet savvy is very important, it’s not enough,” said Raffi Cavoukian, a popular children’s entertainer who founded the Centre For Child Honouring, based on Salt Spring Island.
“Parents can’t adequately supervise their kids to be fully safe.”
Raffi signed the letter because he too believes it is an issue of consumer protection.
“It’s a point I’ve not heard anybody else make. I jumped at the chance to call for a systemic remedy to keeps our kids safe, one that is a responsibility of billion dollar companies like Facebook.”
The death of a teenager who grew in Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge was the impetus for the Red Hood Project.
Amanda Todd was contacted and blackmailed through Facebook by an adult predator, who impersonated local teens to enter her circles of friends.
In Grade 7, she revealed herself online to a cyber predator, who proceeded to blackmail and stalk her with a screen shot he took of her indiscretion.
Todd, 15, took her own life in September a month after posting a video that chronicled the mistakes she made online and the years of bullying that followed.
Her video has since gone viral.
Todd’s death, however, revealed a sinister community of sexual extortionists, known as “cappers,” who target teens just like her.
Cappers are individuals who lurk in video-chat rooms with the sole purpose of surreptitiously taking screenshots and recording video of the person they’re chatting with.
They even celebrated their exploits in a now-defunct animated newscast, in which awards were handed out for “capper of the year,” “camwhore of the year” and “blackmailer of the year.”
Todd’s mother Carol has signed the Red Hood Project’s letter.
Raffi’s Centre for Child Honouring promotes a children-first approach to healing communities and restoring ecosystems and he believes it can applies to changes online, as well.
If you look at the most pressing societal issues through the lens of how is it going to impact children, that’s the best way to come up with solutions that make for a better society, he explains.
“I think, in this case, with social media, I am practically certain they weren’t thinking of young people using it,” he says.
The Red Hood Project believes a grassroots groundswell will prompt change.
“We will be heard at some point,” Raffi says.