Stay safe on­line

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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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