Girls warned over website dangers

HORRIFIED school bosses called in police and social services after teachers found a group of teenage girls - some as young as 14 - had set up a website made up of provocative images of themselves.

HORRIFIED school bosses called in police and social services after teachers found a group of teenage girls - some as young as 14 - had set up a website made up of provocative images of themselves.

Worried staff at Sudbury Upper School discovered a printout of “titillating” pictures of six girls aged between 14 and 18 circulating around the school and an investigation was launched immediately.

The website revealed the girls posing and showing off parts of their bodies and one of the group, a 15-year-old, was arrested and questioned by Sudbury police.

Although police have taken no further action, the website - entitled Give Yourself a Treat - has prompted warnings for the teenage pupils about the dangers of paedophiles using the internet to prey on unsuspecting children.

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And last night child safety workers warned parents to keep a close watch on how their children are using the internet.

Sudbury Upper School headteacher David Forest said the girls involved had been given a clear warning about the dangers of their behaviour, which is being treated as a teenage prank.

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“This all happened out of school, but when we discovered what was going on we had to act responsibly,” said Mr Forest.

“We have told them how incredibly stupid they have been and explained how they were putting themselves in danger.

“They put themselves on the line and could have attracted interest from perverts who use the internet.”

He confirmed that pupils from the school had set-up the website in their own time and stressed that teachers only discovered what was happening when a member of staff found a picture printed from the site.

Mr Forest stressed: “The girls were showing their torsos in a vaguely provocative manner and gave the site a titillating name, which I think was Give Yourself a Treat.

“We only discovered what was going on when a member of staff found a picture that had been printed off the site and brought into school.

“As this was a Child Protection issue we called in social services and the police immediately.

“Police officers did speak to some of the girls to make sure nothing untoward was going on and it seems the company that provided the website should have been more responsible and the site set up by the girls has been closed down.

“Thankfully, it turns out there was no internet grooming going on and the girls were just having a bit of fun, but we have left the them in no doubt how serious the implication of their actions could have been.”

Grooming has become a well-known term for adults who use the internet to prey on children.

It is an issue that has become of major concern for police, social services and child protection groups across the country.

Sue Woolmore, policy advisor for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, issued a warning over the threat of internet grooming.

“There is a mixture of dangers for youngsters when using the Internet, the most dangerous area is in chat rooms or interactive websites where paedophiles can come in and pretend to be someone they are not,” she said.

“Paedophiles are generally very devious people who will spend weeks, months or even years luring people into trusting relationships with a view to accessing the young people for abuse, this is widely known as grooming.”

Ms Woolmore said parents needed to ensure their children were using the internet wisely and safely.

“In the same way they teach children to cross the road, parents need to teach their children the basic principles of safety when using the internet,” she said.

“The most basic rule is to never give away information that could allow somebody to contact you directly, and if a young person decides to meet up with a person they have met on the internet they should always take somebody with them, preferably a responsible adult.”

Inspector Tristan Pepper, of Sudbury police, said: “Sudbury police received a report at the beginning of February that pictures of young girls had been placed on a local website. A 15-year-old girl was arrested at the time. “After officers questioned this girl and spoke to a number of 15-year-old girls, it appears that all pictures had been taken consensually and no crime had been committed.

“Advice has been given to all involved and no further police action will be taken in relation to this incident.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Social Services said the police agreed to take over the inquiry as a single agency investigation as there were no matters specifically relevant to social care.

He said social services officers were satisfied with the police handling of the case.

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