Stay safe online
PARENTS buying their youngsters digital presents this Christmas could be in for a horrible shock if they do not research just what the device is capable of in the hands of their child.
The well-intended gift could ultimately result in their unsuspecting offspring becoming a victim of sexual exploitation or cyber bullying.
It may sound a harsh or unlikely scenario to some, but it is a serious enough issue for Bucks County Council to institute an inquiry into children’s internet safety.
“We have found the biggest problem is the lack of knowledge some parents have over the potential risk their children face when going online, so we are trying to get parents and schools better informed,” said Valerie Letheren, chairman of the council’s education, skills and children’s services select committee.
The committee began its threemonth inquiry in October, receiving evidence from key witnesses such as Thames Valley Police and McAfee, part of Intel Security, the computer security software company which has offices in Aylesbury,
The firm went out to more than 30 schools in Buckinghamshire to give children, parents and staff cyber safety training.
The company also gave training to members and arranged a visit to Bletchley Park to see an exhibition on cyber security.
Executive assistant for McAfee, Joanne Cowdrey, said: “Our aim is to educate as many parents, teachers and children on the risks of online safety. This is a free global initiative where McAfee and Intel employees volunteer to deliver the presentation in schools.”
The council’s drive to improve online safety was given the backing of Stoke Poges School.
Computing co-ordinator at the school, Jawad Laouira, said: “I believe e-safety is an integral part of children’s learning nowadays. Technology plays a huge part in their lives and it is vital that schools give the children the education they need to stay safe online.
“It’s also vital that we help educate parents as ultimately they are the ones that are responsible at home.”
The council select committee members knew cyber security was a worry when they set up the inquiry but some of the findings came as a shock even to them.
Mrs Letheren explained: “We were surprised at the scale of the problem and therefore we are pleased to be carrying out this particular inquiry. Once it ends, we will be making recommendations to the county
Councillor Valerie Letheren Bucks County Council’s chairman of the education, skills and children’s services select committee council cabinet member on the way forward.
“What appears clear at the moment is that some parents simply under-estimate the dangers. They don’t understand the internet as much as their child does and therefore just don’t know how to prevent or identify potential risks.”
The committee heard expert evidence from David Miles, a member of the executive board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), the Government’s principal advisory body for online safety for children and young people. Mr Miles, who recently also gave evidence to a Parliamentary select committee inquiry on the same subject, told members of the national and international context for protecting children from online risks.
The committee is currently finalising its recommendations and its report will go to the council’s cabinetthis month.
For more information, visit http:// www.bucks-lscb.org.uk/professionals/ protocol-and-guidance/child-sexualexploitation/
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