Children and young people spend a lot of their time on social networks, and consequently influencers are becoming increasingly more popular, inspiring their followers with various activities. In an effort to become even more popular, Internet celebrities and influencers popular with young people and children sometimes do things that border on breaking the law, putting their own or their followers’ lives at risk. In order to prevent accidents and violations of the law, the State Police and SJSC Latvijas Dzelzceļš (LDz) are calling on influencers and other public figures not to break the law and inspire their followers responsibly.
SJSC Latvijas Dzelzceļš organizes annual social campaigns to remind everyone that train tracks are no place to play or have fun – when close to the tracks or crossing them, people must be responsible for their own and other people’s health and life. However, this past spring LDz learned about certain influencers and public figures whose behaviour on the railway could be best described as irresponsible and reckless. They endangered their own health and even lives, and children and young people may decide to risk their lives by trying to repeat what their “heroes” did. One such case, when Armis, an influencer popular with young people, put his own life at risk, as well as set a wrong example for his followers, was reported by LDz to the State Police on June 1, when LDz asked the police to launch administrative proceedings in accordance with Section 110 of the Latvian Administrative Violations Code.
“June 7 is the International Level Crossing Awareness Day, during which people in many countries around the world, including Latvia, are reminded about the rules that everyone must follow when crossing the tracks. Unfortunately, dozens of people, including children and young people, die on the railways in Latvia every year. Quite often, smart devices are the reason – people are too absorbed to even notice what is going on around them as they are crossing train tracks. Sadly, there are also cases where young people die as they recklessly expose themselves to danger on the railways. Being aware that the so-called influencers are becoming increasingly popular and young people want to imitate them, we are urging influencers to consider that, as a result of their reckless activities, a young person’s death may be on their conscience,” emphasizes LDZ chief technical inspector Dainis Zvaners.
“Youth influencers need to understand that the activities they post on social sites are freely available to a large number of followers. Through their actions and example, they can inspire young people to do good things as well as, unfortunately, bad things. When filming reckless tricks or unlawful activities, public figures have to take twice as much responsibility – for themselves and their followers, so they should think out all of their actions that will later be made public. They must not be showing something that could have tragic consequences – young people must not be put at such a risk,” emphasizes Andis Rinkevics, head of the Prevention Department at the State Police’s Civil Police Administration.
“The interaction between young people and influencers is nothing new. What is new is the opportunities offered by new technology, but there is a downside to it – problems with children and young people’s mental health, which is partly due to the impact of social networks”, says Nils Sakss Konstantinovs, head of the Psychotherapy Centre for Teenagers and adolescent psychotherapy specialist. “Young people are looking for someone to emulate, and that is natural. Likewise, influencers have a natural need to strive for popularity. I also urge parents to pay attention to their children’s physical and mental health – if a child is physically and mentally strong, he or she will be able not to follow every nonsense seen on social networks,” says the psychotherapist.
This past spring, comedian and actor Jānis Skutelis was also seen acting recklessly as he and his colleague were walking on tracks, and the scene was shown to the general public in Skutelis’ programme. Being aware that such conduct is inappropriate, he points out: “The word influencer has a negative connotation in Latvia, because influencers often inspire people to do something that’s not too good. However, I would like to remind that influencers are creative personalities who like challenge. That is why I challenge influencers, including myself, to come up with videos where no one’s safety is endangered and which do not call for anything reckless. For the past three months, we’ve been talking about the importance of protecting ourselves and other people, and the same goes for the railways – let’s be careful and responsible when near the railways!”
SJSC Latvijas Dzelzceļš is asking all social network users who happen to see a video or a photo of people acting recklessly on the railways to report it to LDz.