'Parents must understand the risks' - The online threats that could put your child in danger
A campaign to raise awareness of online dangers to children will help more than 10,000 young people in Suffolk, we can reveal.
The Stay Safe Online initiative was launched in the county only a year ago, amid rising concern over the online threats to youngsters.
Most children as young as eight and nine now have direct access to smartphones or tablets – yet experts say their use of them is not matched with life experience needed to flag dangers.
As newer and more complex threats emerge – with growing instances of online abuse, sexting and stalking – campaigners say it is essential young people are given information needed to recognise risks.
Parents must also understand dangers, they urged.
University of Suffolk’s Emma Bond, an international expert in online safety, welcomed the Stay Safe Online campaign’s progress.
“New risks are emerging and we are only just beginning to recognise and respond to them,” she said. “These issues are not going to disappear.”
What is Stay Safe Online and how does it work?
The Stay Safe Online campaign was launched in July 2017 by Suffolk Police, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Community Foundation, University of Suffolk, the EADT and the county’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore.
Mr Passmore pumped £100,000 into 11 voluntary schemes to help educate young people.
“I gave the initial grant of £100,000 for the start of an ongoing campaign, as I was seriously concerned at long term damage to our young people,” Mr Passmore explained.
“It is important that primary school-aged children especially, know what the threats are, and about on-line etiquette, so they make the right choices online.
“It is also about ensuring that they don’t inadvertently get into trouble and do something than can affect their future job prospects.
“The really pleasing thing is that with the 11 projects in this scheme we believe we will reach over 10,000 young people, and that can be multiplied many times over by the parents and foster carers who are also getting involved.”
‘Despite a flying start, more financial support is needed’
Despite the promising start to the campaign, organisers say more financial support is required. Suffolk Community Foundation’s head of public affairs, Tim Holder, said: “The Stay Safe Online project is just starting to fly and has made a great start, but this a social problem we need to continue to support.
“It would be amazing to see new financial supporters coming forward to grow what this seed funding from our PCC has started.
“Suffolk Community Foundation would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in stepping up to the plate on this.”
• You can contact them via their website.
How cash from Stay Safe Online fund is helping youngsters in your area
Eleven frontline projects were given grants this year – but how has the cash benefitted youngsters?
• At Level Two in Felixstowe, chosen staff are now trained in addressing threats and they will educate young people, parents, grandparents and carers in online safety. Project manager Shez Hopkins said: “We know children already have a vast amount of knowledge and awareness of how the internet and social media work, the positives, challenges and issues it can cause.
“Much of our time will be spent delivering workshops, offering early interventions and exposing real life case studies.”
• Access Community Trust in Lowestoft received their grant for a theatre project to address issues like online bullying, stalking and sexting.
They are working with theatre group The Escapades and young people from the Minding the Gap project.
Bosses said: “It’s an interactive play and the audience will guide where the play will go.”
• The Bangladeshi Support Centre in Ipswich is running information sessions for parents and children – and leaders say both proved popular.
Joint centre manager Mohammed Mainul Alam said: “Parents thought their children were doing their homework online in their bedrooms, but discovered they had other windows open too.
“What really works well is having joint sessions with parents and children learning together.”
• St Mary’s CEVAP School in Woodbridge used their grant to run a Stay Safe Online programme, working with ChildNet. Teacher Kate Hayward-Brakenbury said: “Ten children from Years 4 and 5 successfully completed an application process to become the school’s digital leaders, presenting information to peers, parents and staff through blogs, posters and workshops.”
• Ipswich Community Media have appointed an ‘online czar’, Alicia Durbin, who said: “We are developing lesson plans for 150 youngsters who come to us each week for music, radio and filming, and for their parents too.”
• Suffolk Refugee Support needed to adapt their materials so they could be applied to unique local circumstances.
Newly appointed Hidden Harms officer Michelle Francis added: “The eyes of the refugees and asylum seekers often widen when we talk about the dangers online.
“There are always problems around the different levels of language ability, I will be working with parents and children together.”
• To find out more, visit the Suffolk Community Foundation website.