Think! Protect your child at Christmas and beyond…

Christmas beckons once again!

As the weather has changed and the end of the school term is nigh our thoughts are now turned towards Christmas and the festive season. The TV ads are bombarding us all with what is hot and what children must have. John Lewis spent a fortune using Elton John to promote their store, Waitrose mocked the John Lewis ad but alas it’s all a bit nauseating for me! One of my real worries will be the amount of new mobile phones and tablet devices that children will be getting in their Christmas socks this year, the same story was told last year and the year before. However, during the year we at the NWG hear every week cases of children and adults being groomed on-line mainly via mobile phone technologies, indeed today GCHQ has issued a warning about on-line fraud as many shoppers look for bargains on “Black Friday”. It seems all common sense simply flies out of the window when a bargain is to be had, all this happens continually despite every year the same warnings are given on the main media channels yet are all too often ignored, us adults simply do not learn our lessons!

With this in mind how do we protect our children from on-line grooming when adults do not display good digital behaviour which should help to model their children’s digital behaviour. This week a disturbing story has emerged from Norway. A 26-year-old man reported to be a football referee has been charged with serious sexual assault offences against 300 boys. He used the internet to groom the boys into sending naked pictures then blackmailed them into sending more graphic abusive pictures and videos, some boys also met him in person. This has been described as Norway’s biggest ever sexual abuse case.

Parents have to play a key part in helping our children to understand what good digital behaviour is, there is an overreliance for schools to teach children about on-line safety, many parents also rely too much on “tech” solutions such as parental controls. Whilst these parental controls are useful, they are not the be all and end all of digital safety, regular and sometimes difficult conversations are required with our children to help them understand the risks that are present when talking to their many friends through social media. Perhaps parents should use social media as a learning tool WITH their children to help them both understand on-line risks, this could be less stressful that “lecturing” children about digital dangers and both parties would be more recipient to learning by looking at how adults and children can become victims of on-line crime. During this week myself and Steve Baguley were invited to attend a CSE strategic meeting in Ipswich where we met staff from the children and adult workforce, one of our colleagues coined a phrase:

“ mobile phones are the preferred drug of teenagers”,

this statement had a powerful impact on me especially as we are now aware of the addictive nature of mobile phone technology and social media. Parents should take this into consideration when thinking about talking to their children about mobile phone usage, instead of highlighting over usage distract them, play games, play cards, watch TV together, the whole house should have some mobile phone “down time” at agreed points during the week, but this will only work if parents also put away their mobile phone and display good examples of digital behaviour themselves.

Kev Murphy

CSE Response Unit