Police and headteachers are welcoming new steps by the children’s charity, the NSPCC, to help parents keep their children safe on the Internet.
Earlier this month, a “psychotic animal” – Lewis Daynes (19) – was sentenced to life in prison for the sexually motivated murder of Surrey boy Breck Bednar (14) after grooming him through online gaming and then luring him to his flat.
Step by step Daynes became Breck’s manipulating controller and then, the day after their first-ever meeting, his killer.
Talking to strangers or encountering sexual content are the two things that worry children most when using the Internet.
Paedophiles hide behind other identities, often posing as children, and it’s easy for children to sign up to many sites aimed at adults and see explicit sexual material.
The NSPCC has launched A Parents’ Guide to Being Share Aware – saying what’s safe or unsafe to share on the net – together with other advice that’s available free on www.nspcc.org/shareaware
NSPCC chief executive officer Peter Wanless said: “We know that children do take risks online, sometimes without realising it. And we know some parents feel confused by the Internet – out of their depth and out of control.
“Keeping children safe online is the biggest child protection challenge of this generation. Parents have a vital role to play but we want social networking sites to respond to parental concerns about their children’s safety and privacy.”
Share Aware is aimed at parents of children aged from eight to 12 years and offers simple advice that puts grown-ups back in control.
The campaign will be supported by two animations to be shown on prime time TV – “I Saw Your Willy” and “Lucy and The Boy” – which chart the perils of revealing too much information.
Talking points for parents to raise with their kids include:
* Keeping personal details safe (emails, name, phone number, school names);
* Not everyone’s who they say they are online;
* Choosing usernames that don’t reveal personal information;
* Which images might be OK to share;
* Thinking about what you share (once it’s online it’s out of your control).
Lincolnshire police spokeswoman Jemma Peacock said: “We start to teach our children about road safety as soon as they can walk and it becomes part of their understanding of the world.
“Internet safety is just as important, but the messages we need to convey are not quite so straightforward for everyone. Some parents are not confident in their understanding of the Internet and may even feel that their children’s knowledge exceeds their own. The Share Aware campaign aims to help parents feel more confident in having the conversations they need to have about Internet safety.”
Det Insp Simon Lovett heads the Lincolnshire Police team dedicated to tracking down online paedophiles.
In 2013 he warned parents about perverts who prompt children to perform sex acts live on webcam – and then blackmail them to do more with threats that their naked pictures will be revealed to family or friends.
He said then: “Children can become trapped in this cycle and they can almost become slaves to these people because they have to do their bidding. “As Home Secretary Theresa May said, a child can be at greater risk sitting in their bedroom on their computer than they are outside the school gates.”
* Among headteachers supporting the NSPCC campaign is Paul Reid, from St John’s Primary, Spalding, who said Internet safety is part of the school’s overall safety and wellbeing work which begins in Reception.
He said: “This work also covers safe use of the world wide web – not giving personal details, what to do if you are worried about anything you see on the Internet, safe use of social media and online gaming etc. We have also run workshops for parents and we direct parents to an e-safety website and termly newsletter that highlights some of the dangers.
“The work on e-safety is now part and parcel of our keeping children safe work and I welcome the NSPCC initiative, as it will be a useful resource.”