Highlighting the needy with Anthony Bernard.

Dog walkers are common near the sea front, with a walker focussing on a smartphone and the dog sniffing for messages by the wall.

Sometimes the human is impatient, with the dog dragged on its lead. Sometimes the dog is allowed to appreciate the full flavour of the neighbourhood. "Social media" is not new, dogs have been sharing news for thousands of years, with some aromas sweeter than others!

Car rides seem part of the ritual. Some owners may spend more on petrol than they do on dog food, while their pets lack social contacts from their own streets. Human social media is very different. Connections extend well beyond the same street, town or country! This may be a bad thing; mental health is worsened by the lack of friendly face to face contact!

Cats generate their own fun, resent car trips and refuse walks. Years ago our cat, Tigger, amused himself by sitting on a fencepost annoying a neighbour's dog. Tigger jumped down into the dog's garden, then off through a hole in the back hedge. Barking from the dog in hot pursuit faded into the distance, then louder until Tigger came into our own garden at a steady lope. The dog was now "lost", while Tigger went back to the original fencepost, a few gardens away, to wait for his victim to find the way home!

Social media is a bit like that. People leave trails for others to follow. Tigger would be classed as a rogue influencer. As usual there is an underlying truth buried in this silly story. Too many trails on social media are set by people with malicious intent as surely as Tigger deliberately lead the dog astray! Some may be old enough to remember Mompty and Peckham on Children's Hour, before TV overtook radio.

Social media can sometimes be very smelly. Dogs discern the aroma. People need to separate good ideas from bad counsel and above all recognise possible traps and frauds. In canine social media, every smell is genuine, whether nice or nasty! In human social media, information and disinformation are presented equally, with no way of separating what from which, other than good sense and experience.

Children learn trust from their parents - at least we hope they do. Growing up includes the transition from trusting family to recognising there are others who cannot be trusted. In my day, school was the first interaction with the wider world, learning who to trust and who not to trust. All of this was among local children with teachers and parents in the background, though not always checking confrontations behind the bike shed!

Smartphones and social media now expose young children to a different and often malevolent world, with false information and bad advice designed by malicious adults to appeal to children. No parent would entertain a stranger visiting a child unsupervised in their room, but the internet allows exactly that accessibility.

We must all guard against evil influences corrupting our world, and especially children and vulnerable adults, and we are all a bit vulnerable! Suppressing the internet altogether is impractical; we now rely on it for email and lots more. However, we cannot trust major corporations, politicians or officials, to keep us safe.

We, the people, must be vigilant on behalf of children, vulnerable adults and for each other, so that bad smells do not prevail.