Children’s entertainer and advocate Raffi says he was “shaken” and “angry” when he heard about the death of Amanda Todd, a British Columbia teen who committed suicide in October following years of Internet sexual exploitation and bullying by her peers, and that’s why he co-founded the Red Hood Project.
Billed as a movement to make social media safe for young users, the project includes a website, a Facebook and Twitter page, and a letter the beloved “Baby Beluga” singer-songwriter co-wrote and sent to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Nov. 14.
The letter, which includes Todd’s mother’s signature, says that the 15-year-old was blackmailed through Facebook and urges the social media company to correct “the security failures that made such victimization possible.”
“Of course education of parents and young users is important, we recognize that, but we think the onus ought to be on those businesses – social media companies who create the risk in the first place – to do all that they can,” Raffi Cavoukian, who goes by just his first name onstage, said in a recent interview.
“The Red Hood Project comes from Little Red Riding Hood. Our young are alone in the cyber woods, so to speak, vulnerable to the wolves out there. The Red Hood Project says the responsibility, social media companies, is on you to fix the security gap systemically.”
The founder of the non-profit global awareness group Centre for Child Honouring said he’s also writing a book about the perils of social media for young children as he continues his recently launched “#belugagrads – Family Concert” series, which hits Toronto on Sunday and Ottawa on Monday.
“What I say to people is: ‘This is not a phone – this is a car on the information super highway ... and nobody who’s not old enough to drive should have one of these things,’ ” Raffi, who published an autobiography over a decade ago, said as he held up his smartphone.
Proceeds from the shows – which also include stops in Calgary and Edmonton in March – benefit Raffi’s Centre for Child Honouring.