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BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"To adults the code is common sense"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 21:15 GMT
Children warned of net stranger danger
internet graphic
Parents are being warned of the dangers of the internet
An internet security code has been launched to protect children from paedophiles and pornographers.

It aims to warn children that people they meet on chatlines could pose a danger.

The code has been drawn up by the European Research into Consumer Affairs (Erica), a charity which undertakes research to protect vulnerable consumers.

It aims to ensure children who use the internet are aware of the potential dangers, and schooled in how best to avoid them.

These dangers were demonstrated when two 15-year-old girls from Cumbria ran away to Manchester to meet up with people they had befriended in a chat room.

Best friends Leanne Reichert and Natasha Bruce went missing for three nights.

Leanne's mother Linda said she had had no idea where the girls had gone.

Ann Davison
Davison: Stranger danger on the net
"We sent them off to school one morning and they never turned up," she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I rang the school and found out that they hadn't been to school the day before which we hadn't realised."

She said she rang the police launching a big manhunt.

"Leanne had been on the internet for about a year and they just decided to go away."

She said Leanne did not realise it could be dangerous.

Both girls came home safely and Leanne has now been banned from using the internet.

'People can pretend'

Ann Davison, the director of Erica, said the guidelines were to enable children to use the internet and to have fun.

"There is stranger danger on the net," she said.

"Don't think of people you chat to online as being people you know. They are still strangers. People can pretend and they do pretend."

The new guidelines include:
  • Do not give out your home address, phone number or school.
  • Don't arrange to meet anyone you talk to online or send them your picture.
  • People do not always tell the truth on the internet and are not always who they seem.
  • Tell parents or teachers if you get nasty messages.
John Carr, is the internet consultant for NCH Action for Children.

He said by looking at case studies in the US you could see the potential for similar situations in Britain.

"There are currently 300 men serving prison sentences for sexual offences where the initial contact was made over the internet," Mr Carr said, quoting figures from the FBI.

He said the key was to learn from the experiences in America.

"Even though your children may be accessing the internet in your living room it's actually not that safe," Mr Carr said.

"Most of it is safe all of the time, some of it is safe most of the time but some of it is unsafe all of the time," he said.

He said the campaign aimed to alert parents and children to the dangers on the net.

"Only a fool would tell their kids not to use the internet. But nothing in life is 100% safe and the internet is no exception."

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See also:

11 Oct 99 | Education
Net porn warning for pupils
12 Nov 99 | UK
Netting the pornographers
27 Jan 00 | World
New weapon against child porn
24 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Net crime prompts cyber squad call
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