I set up the Breck Foundation five years ago because I wanted something good to come out of what happened to my son Breck. Breck was a regular 14-year-old boy who loved science, computing and gaming. He was invited into a gaming group by ‘friends of friends’ from school so this seemed to be a safe place to spend time enjoying his hobby. Unfortunately, the man who ran the server was known to police and he groomed Breck and the boys through their shared interests and passions. Over a period of a year the predator built up a relationship with the boys and gained their trust through sending them gifts, having a laugh, and ‘being there’ for them. Even though I spoke to Breck and many people about my concerns, the predator lured Breck to his flat with promises of job opportunities and apprenticeships. Breck sadly did not make it home. There were so many missed opportunities within Breck’s story to report the grooming and get help, but people either were not educated or not empowered to help.
We now speak in schools to pupils of all ages, as well as parents and staff using Breck’s story to engage in a very real way, Breck’s lessons are a platform for open discussions. We also offer training sessions to police and safeguarding professionals as well as presenting at conferences across the UK.
We teach concepts such as:
- Boys can be groomed too
- ‘Friends of Friends’ may not always be safe
- Predators can be any age or gender
- ‘Do you Really Know your online friends?’
- The Signs of Grooming
- Play Virtual/Live Real
- What to do if concerned about self or others
We strive to educate the digital generation to be empowered to keep safer online. This issue is not a personal issue, but a community one. The child being groomed and exploited may not realise what is being done to them as they will be getting attention and compliments whilst being controlled and manipulated. It is important that we work on these issues as a community so that we report and stop predators as otherwise they will go from child to child until they find one that doesn’t see the relationship as unhealthy and possibly makes a mistake that could harm them.
When I first viewed the short film Kayleigh’s Love Story, I was just shocked. Another innocent life taken by an online predator. Her grooming had so many of the same characteristics and horrid outcome as Breck’s did, yet was a very different scenario. I always wondered if Kayleigh and her friends had heard about Breck’s story at school, that maybe things could have turned out safer for her. I knew straightaway that I wanted a film in a similar vein as this to reach as many young people as possible with awareness of the dangers they could face online. In every police training or conference that I delivered, I would state how I wanted help to create a film. I then approached Leicestershire Police force, who had commissioned Kayleigh’s film. They came to see me and to explain how to go about creating such an important piece of education, but I was down heartened as I didn’t have the funding at this point. A few weeks later, they phoned with the exciting news that they would help commission the film together with Northamptonshire, Essex and Surrey Police Forces, I was so pleased. It wasn’t easy for me, but we created Breck’s Last Game so that teenagers everywhere could see how grooming could happen through gaming and social interaction online. We also have lesson plans to go along with this and to prompt open discussions on the issues. The film has first been used in schools with very positive impact, even prompting disclosures, and on April 3rd will go public so that everyone can access this resource. We hope everyone shows it to teenagers along with implementing the lesson plans so that young people everywhere can contemplate “Do You Really Know Your Online Friends?” so that they remember to PlayVirtual/Live Real.
Best from all of us at Team Breck!!