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Friday, 29 March, 2002, 09:47 GMT
Online lifeline for children
There4me website
There4me offers online counselling for kids
Children suffering abuse or other problems will soon be able to chat to a counsellor online as the children's charity NSPCC launches a new website.

There4me.com is the first website in the UK to offer one-to-one real-time counselling online.

It is hoped it can go some way to eradicating cruelty to children by giving victims another means of communication.

"The pilot is showing us that this is a service that children value because they can talk about things that are worrying them while remaining anonymous if they wish to do so," explained head of there4me Pat Marsland.

"In this way we can reach out to children who might otherwise not seek help and offer them advice on safety and protection."

Advice by e-mail

Silhouette of child
Thousands of children are abused in the UK
The website is aimed at children aged between 12 and 16 and offers information, advice and games as well as the counselling service.

A private inbox allows users to send messages to an adviser and receive confidential replies.

Alternatively children can log on anonymously and talk in private with an online counsellor in real-time.

Initially there will be 15 trained counsellors available and the service will operate from 10am to 9pm on weekdays.

Childline was one of the first charities to recognise that children needed to have someone to talk to. The service receives 15,000 phone calls each day.

Boys cry too

Childline chief executive Carole Easton believes an online service will be an excellent complement to the existing telephone service.

"Children are often more comfortable with technology than adults and we have found that they would be interested in an e-mail service, especially for those that might not be able or do not want to use the telephone," she said.

It could also be a way of coaxing more boys to get in touch as Childline currently receives more calls from girls.

The charity is looking at developing its own online counselling service.

See also:

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New web controls to protect children
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