BlackBerrys (BBM), London riots & vulnerable young people

Posted 8 Aug 2011


Twitter feeds on the London Riots – #londonriots

Riots do not resolve the current conflict in London and I do not support violence. However, this is a complex situation for all involved; vulnerable angry young people, local families & business the police trying to keep communities and business from further harm. There are individuals escalating this situation to their advantage to loot local business and earn some ‘quick cash’. In my view what has ‘fuled’ this situation is a death of a local resident, poverty and social exclusion of vulnerable young people. In the north London borough of Haringey youth clubs were shut after the youth services budget was slashed by 75% after a cut of £41m to the council’s overall budget. Hundreds of thousands of young people throughout the UK are affected. Gang experts, MPs and sector workers are warning that these cuts – which have hit youth services harder than any other area of local authority spending, according to the education select committee – could have a serious impact on the safety of young people in urban areas. (article via @johnpopham – Guardian, Alexandra Topping, 29th July’2011 – Farewell youth clubs, hello street life)

The article goes on to share – The young people in Tottenham, they are not so much a community within a community, they are a community beyond the community, with their own rules, their own codes, their own hierarchy,” said Symeon Brown, 22, who helped run a campaign to prevent the cuts in Haringey. “How do you create a ghetto? By taking away the very services that people depend upon to live, to better themselves.” Professor John Pitts, who has researched gang behaviour for more than 40 years, says the “annihilation” of youth services, coupled with academies likely to favour middle-class students over disadvantaged children, could further disconnect young people from society and result in more entrenched gangs. “Services are not just being taken away from young people, they are being taken from poor young people,” he said.

A Facebook page was created for mourning the loss of Mark Duggan initially then people sharing their anger and frustration for answers and certain people wanting to average his death. According to the article in todays Guardian (Josh Halliday Monday 8 August 2011) At 10.45pm, when rioters set a double decker bus alight, the facebook page posted: “Please upload any pictures or video’s you may have from tonight in Tottenham. Share it with people to send the message out as to why this has blown into a riot.”

The article then shares: The most powerful and up-to-the-minute rallying appears to have taken place on a more covert social network: BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). Using BlackBerry handsets – the smartphone of choice for the majority (37%) of British teens, according to last week’s Ofcom study – BBM allows users to send one-to-many messages to their network of contacts, who are connected by “BBM PINs”. And unlike Twitter or Facebook, many BBM messages are untraceable by the authorities (which is why, in large part, BBM is so favoured by Emirati teens to spread illicit gossip about officialdom).

BlackBerrys are high functioning phones but can often cost less than smartphones like Androids or iPhones, which are typically the choice of Twitter users due to the wide range of client applications. And remember, Androids and iPhones don’t run the free BBM network, and no other group messaging app has yet taken hold in the UK. As a result BlackBerrys have become choice of Britain’s disaffected youth. (Tech News, Monday 8th Aug 2011)

Do the UK Police understand young people’s use of social media and BBM? Do we as youth professional understand young people’s use of these new media tools and able to engage with them to offer them support, advice and hear their vews to advocate to senior decision makers? I was forwarded an interesting article by (@johnpopham) Dubai Police issues special BlackBerry pin. It its attempt to catch up with technology Dubai Police have allotted a special pin number (27875985) for all BlackBerry (BB) users to receive awareness messages.

Stephen Carrwick-Davies (@StephenCarrickD) recently released a superb report commissioned by the Training Deveoplemnat agency – Munch, Poke, Ping – Vulnerable young people, social media and e-safety. The focus of the research was to consider the risks which vulnerable young people, excluded from schools and being taught in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), encounter online and through their Blackberry mobile phones (BBM). The aim was to then ascertain what specific advice, support and safeguarding training staff working with these vulnerable young people need when it comes to understanding social media and mobile technology. Read related blog

I propose for a debate session at the FREE Internationally Connected Generation Conference on Wed 21st Sep – London (learn more)
How do youth services and providers listen and gain the views of theses young people?
How do we use social media more creatively to capture their views to then advocate to local and central government to campaign for appropriate local youth provisions and support services?

Interesting article on the media coverage:
Sun and Mail blame Twitter for fuelling London’s riots as Blackberry phone of choice by @gordonmacmillan, posted on 8 August, 2011 at 10:10 am

Read more: http://wallblog.co.uk/2011/08/08/sun-and-daily-mail-blame-twitter-for-fuelling-londons-riots-and-looting/#ixzz1USc84gF6

This track ‘Hiatus – Insurrection‘ was released April 11th by to mark the 30th anniversary of the Brixton riots.

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5 Responses

  1. Ola - 9 Aug 2011 |

    A very thought provoking article. Having grown up in the 80s I found the ‘Hiatus – Insurrection‘ video a chilling reminder. Like you I do not condone these riots regardless of reason, but I feel sorry for the family of Mark Duggan who wanted their story to be the focus and not one about ‘individuals escalating this situation to their advantage to loot local business and earn some ‘quick cash’.’ There are many ares of the country, such as Harlesden, near where I live, that have had small incidents not mentioned in press. I really do hope there are not more, but I fear there will be. keep up the good work.

  2. Amanda - 10 Aug 2011 |

    A great article Katie. I think it would be great to have a debate session at the InterConnected generation conference. We’ve been contacted by the press today to get youth worker reactions regarding young people’s action and they seem keen to sensationalise the incidents, but arent particulary keen to listen to the views of young people. Good work :)

  3. “Absolute explosion” — How BlackBerry BBM fed the riots, says contact - 11 Aug 2011 |

    [...] were shut after the youth services budget was slashed by 75%. Gang experts, MPs and sector workers warned on 29th July that the lack of youth services would feed a growing gang culture, which been described as “a [...]

  4. Mike Butcher’s piece on London Riots and tech is the best I’ve seen : All New Musings - 11 Aug 2011 |

    [...] were shut after the youth services budget was slashed by 75%. Gang experts, MPs and sector workers warned on 29th July that the lack of youth services would feed a growing gang culture, which been described as “a [...]

  5. When trashing his or her own community, is a rioter ever not stupid? » 21stCenturyFix.org.uk - 27 Apr 2012 |

    [...] Here’s a thoughtful piece, which won’t easily fit itself into the smart headlines and angles of mainstream media, on what’s really going on in those places where young people seem bent on destruction: Riots do not resolve the current conflict in London and I do not support violence. However, this is a complex situation for all involved; vulnerable angry young people, local families & business the police trying to keep communities and business from further harm. There are individuals escalating this situation to their advantage to loot local business and earn some ‘quick cash’. In my view what has ‘fuled’ this situation is a death of a local resident, poverty and social exclusion of vulnerable young people. In the north London borough of Haringey youth clubs were shut after the youth services budget was slashed by 75% after a cut of £41m to the council’s overall budget. Hundreds of thousands of young people throughout the UK are affected. Gang experts, MPs and sector workers are warning that these cuts – which have hit youth services harder than any other area of local authority spending, according to the education select committee – could have a serious impact on the safety of young people in urban areas. [...] [...]

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