Gloucestershire police teach children about internet safety
PRIMARY school children are being taught how to avoid online dangers.
The Internet presents many dangers to youngsters and police says it's never too early for them to learn about the risks.
Specially trained police officers from the child protection unit want children to know how to handle themselves on the Internet.
They are concerned that an increasing number of younger children are accessing the web, meaning they could stumble across adult material.
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Officers are visiting classrooms and speaking to children in a language they understand.
Children are quizzed about their computer use and shown a short video explaining that online dangers include pornographic images and communicating with strangers "who may not be who they seem to be".
Children are also told not to post personal details online, and to be wary of strangers when using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.
It comes after Cheltenham paedophile Damien Howes, 24, was jailed for two years at Gloucester Crown Court for sexually grooming a 13-year-old girl online.
He posed as a 17-year-old boy on a dating website, and told her he loved her and "wanted to hold you and never let go".
PC Nicola Dannatt, from the schools public protection unit, recently visited Gretton Primary School in Winchcombe to talk to Year 6 pupils about internet security.
She said: "It's important for children to make sure they are not putting themselves at risk by uploading the wrong sort of information."
The police hope to visit all primary and secondary schools across the Tewkesbury borough by early December.
They are taking action as children are becoming computer literate at an earlier age and the level of online pornography is getting worse.
They say the risks have increased as children no longer surf the net when they are at home under the natural surveillance of their family – they have access to the web all the time on their phones.
Children at Gretton Primary took part in a question and answer session, with most of the nine and 10-year-olds already having access to Xbox, mobile phones and iPads.
Many of them admitted they chat with strangers through online gaming sites, something PC Dannatt strongly discourages.
She told them to change their ways, explaining: "You never know who they are. Never give out personal details, or anything which might identify you, to a stranger or someone you do not know."
PC Dannatt said underage children should stay away from age-restricted online games. She said names, addresses and phone numbers should never be given out and nicknames should be used to protect personal details.
Children were taught to keep information on social media sites private through a short film.
The film showed a man, who was in his 40s, following the movements of a young girl, while pretending to be a 13-year-old boy.
Cheryl Cuthbertson, co-headteacher at Gretton Primary School, said: "It is essential children are learning how to be safe online.
"We do it in school as part of our safeguarding teaching programme but the police message really drives home the importance."
Police Community Support Officer Emma Birch, who covers Winchcombe, urged the children to make sure they reported any dubious incidents to the police.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), has set up a website which allows children, as well as parents and careers ,to report any suspicious activity.
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INTERNET SAFETY ADVICE:
Have anti-virus and parental monitoring systems on all computers.
Learn how to activate security and private settings.
For younger children, access should be in a family room, rather than in a bedroom.
Be aware that devices such as gaming consoles or mobile phones can be used by your children to access the internet.
Be open – it’s a good idea to talk to children about computers and to stay open to their questions and curiosity.
Keep all your own information private as an example to your children.
If a site encourages children to submit their names to personalise the web content, help them create online nicknames that don’t give away personal information.
Talk to your parents so that you can agree rules for going online, and decide the times of day and length of time you can be online.
Remember, not everyone tells the truth. Some people may tell lies about who they are.
if you feel uncomfortable with any website or message, leave right away and tell a parent as soon as you can. Don’t answer any message that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Never agree to meet anyone you have met online without checking with a parent first.
Keep your personal details secret. Never tell anyone online your full name, address, phone number or passwords.