Are Online Games and Social Media Amplifying Bullying in Young People?

A speaker slot at SASO’s annual conference gave us the opportunity to highlight our work in early intervention in justice, citing experiences of police officers we’ve worked with and allowing us to unveil how we plan to divert young people from crime using our proven mentoring expertise.

The autumn is conference season, a time to reflect, connect, learn and share knowledge. We were lucky enough to be invited to speak to an audience of judges, sheriffs, police officers and policy makers at the 50th Annual Conference for the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending (SASO).

We were there to share our findings around the relationship between games like Fortnite and social media platforms like SnapChat on youth violence. Is there a correlation between online humiliation and revenge attacks in the playground? Certainly, conversations with community police officers based in schools indicate this is the case. At the conference, Professor Manuel Eisner, Wolfson Professor of Criminology at Cambridge University, suggested that revenge is part of human nature and, where people feel like justice hasn’t been delivered, they are more likely to carry out their own justice.

Young Person Playing Fortnite

No widespread research study has proven that violent online gaming actually makes people violent. Instead what we’ve seen and heard from pupils, teachers and police indicates that violent online gaming and rapid social media communication simply accelerate and amplify violence that already exists. The immediacy at which information is shared in school through SnapChat and social media platforms means that trivial disputes do escalate into violence, as police officers and teachers have told us.

This led us to explore how we can apply our expertise in mentoring to an early intervention programme that will reduce underlying violence in schools. And so New Routes No Limits was born.

New Routes No Limits is a six week, school based intervention, delivered to 11-14 year olds by our experienced mentors – followed up with 121 mentoring. Sessions are informal and interactive and cover topics which can lead to violence, including peer pressure, drug use, alcohol, mental health, relationships and attitudes to violence.

A suite of interventions to reduce offending

Our mission is to provide mentoring and support services to reduce offending, and New Routes No Limits is one intervention.

New Routes Mentoring is our longest running programme, with six years of history and recording 4,000 customer journeys. In Scotland, less than 10% of people who complete a journey with New Routes Mentoring return to prison within a year – that’s compared to national reoffending rate of 35%. Our mentors – half of whom have their own experience of the justice system – give wraparound support and guidance to people for six months in prison, meeting them at the gate when they leave, and again for a further six month in the community. Malcolm’s story shows us how a mentor can change a life at this crucial time.

New Routes to Employment helps people with convictions into employment. We know that finding a job improves reintegration and reduces reoffending. Research by the Ministry of Justice found that securing employment within 12 months of leaving prison reduces reoffending by 50%. As a large social enterprise which supports around 2,000 people into employment each year, we are well placed to match suitable candidates from this untapped talent pool to vacancies with partner employers.

Let’s talk

Our time at SASO conference opened up new ideas and new opportunities to support people affected by the justice system. Get in touch to find out more about our work in justice.