In December 2022 Channel 4 showcased a powerful and emotive film called I Am Ruth. The film tells the story of Ruth (played by Kate Winslet), a mother struggling to support her daughter Freya (played by real life daughter Mia Threapleton) who becomes consumed by the pressures of social media and the impact that this has on Freya’s mental health along with the impact on Ruth’s mental health and the impact on them as a family.
This week Kate Winslet won a BAFTA for leading actress for her performance in I Am Ruth and we have no doubt that so many of you will have seen this speech Kate Winslet gave in accepting her award:
In her speech Kate Winslet calls upon those in power to criminalise and eradicate harmful content. We continue to promote the need for more stringent protection for our children, we can’t place the responsibility purely on the shoulders of children and parents to keep themselves safe in online spaces.
In an interview Kate Winslet gave to the BBC when the film was released, she spoke about parents all feeling, at times, powerless when it comes to the world of social media and it being a frightening place. She talked of it being a place where we don’t necessarily know what is out there (after all it is so vast), what they do, what is happening within their friendships and what the impact technology and social media has on their lives.
When asked if she wanted the film to be a warning to families on what can go wrong, she said she wouldn’t use that language but that she sees it as an opening for conversations for a space in which we can say what is happening. This message is one that MCF wholeheartedly agrees with and one that we champion within the work we do. The language we use can be so powerful, it can blame a child who has, or who is being harmed through technology and can blame parents and families. A child’s experience in how conversations are started can have an impact on whether they continue to open up to us. Having conversations about a child’s life with technology should be as commonplace as conversations about how their day has been at school or what they would like for their dinner!
The systems, social media platforms, and technology that our children and young people access should be free from harmful content. There is still a need for more to be done. We hope one vital piece of work that will bring about positive change will be the Online Safety Bill that will put into place safeguards, make clear roles and responsibilities, and hold tech companies accountable. The bill will hopefully make changes that will offer safety to our children and young people online, something that all of us at MCF, including our Lived Experience Group will continue to support.
We can’t write about I Am Ruth and the passionate speech that Kate Winslet gave without echoing her message that there is no shame in asking for support. The MCF vision is that no further harm is done to any child. Staff at MCF will continue to support any child harmed by technology-assisted child sexual abuse and be alongside them throughout their recovery journey.
More resources on talking to children and young people about online harm are available here
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