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ALERT: The Internet Watch Foundation warns that “11-13 year old girls are increasingly at risk of grooming and coercion at the hands of online predators.” They have launched a campaign to empower young girls to recognise and respond safely to the risks.
Not everyone online is who they say they are. It’s easy to lie and sometimes people pretend to be younger than they are in order to befriend young people. Only be friends online with people you know and trust in real life.
What are the warning signs that someone online might be risky? (unknown person making contact, lots of messages, asking lots of personal questions, compliments/flattery/gifts, saying you are special, an intuition that something is not quite right or normal, talking about adult subjects, making you feel uncomfortable, asking for nude images, pressuring you, asking you to keep a secret, making you feel guilty.)
What should you never share online? (nude or semi-nude images or videos, rude or abusive language – and keep personal information private)
What should you do if you spot a warning sign? (Block, report and tell a trusted adult. Never keep it secret, even if you have made a mistake or feel embarrassed).
Activities: Sometimes it can be hard to tell a parent about things that worry you online. Think about how you could ask for help. Make a list of the other people who could help.
The Internet Watch Foundation works to remove child abuse images from the internet. They warn that any child of any background, with unrestricted access to the internet, could be a victim of online child abuse. In 2020, the IWF saw a 77% rise in cases of self-generated imagery (SGI) compared with 2019. SGI is imagery which children create themselves. They may do so as a result of befriending and under the mistaken impression they are sharing with a girl or boyfriend or as a result of coercion. It is a growing problem. Of the images dealt with by the IWF last year, 44% were SGI and in 80% of these, 11-13 year old girls were the victims.
It’s important that children recognise the risks and feel empowered to block, report and tell and that they are aware of anonymous, confidential reporting services like Childline. Learn more about the IWF campaign at https://gurlsoutloud.com/
Many children have spent a lot of time alone in their rooms with internet connected devices during lockdown. As parents, it’s easy to assume that they are safe but the evidence from the Internet Watch Foundation shows that increasing numbers of children, particularly girls aged 11-13 years, are being tricked by online predators into sharing nude images of themselves.
Sometimes children are coerced into involving friends or younger siblings too. A new campaign recommends that parents T.A.L.K to their children about the dangers. It’s also important to remember that children are vulnerable, and groomers are skilled at manipulating young people’s behaviour. Children are the victims and are not to blame if they have been groomed, tricked and coerced. If affected by this type of crime, they will feel embarrassed and may find it hard to discuss, but it is really important to encourage them to tell, using confidential advice services like Childline if necessary. IWF recommend:
- Talk to your child about online sexual abuse. Start the conversation – and listen to their concerns.
- Agree ground rules about the way you use technology as a family.
- Learn about the platforms and apps your child loves. Take an interest in their online life.
- Know how to use tools, apps and settings that can help to keep your child safe online.
You can find more information and resources at https://talk.iwf.org.uk/
For Gooseberry Schools, you will find lesson plans that address some of the issues relating to passwords and security and accompanying parent advice sheets in:
Playground: Scenario 1 People Online, Sc 2 Personal Information, Sc 4 Fake Profiles, Sc 7 Video Chat
Street: Scenario 1 People Online, Sc 4 Safe Sharing, Sc 8 Chatting Online
Village: Scenario 3 Webcam Wise, Sc 6 Boundaries, Sc 9 Images
Town: Scenario 1 Digital Footprint, Sc 5 Video Chats, Sc 9 Fake Profiles
City: Scenario 3 Receiving Images, Sc 5 Grooming, Sc 8 Sending Images, Sc 10 Video Chat
Gooseberry Planet offers over 60 comprehensive lesson plans on all aspects of online safety for 5-13-year olds. Digital workbooks and fun, online games to reinforce learning make it ideal for teaching remotely. Click here to find out more about Gooseberry Planet!