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Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Online safety push for children
By Angela Harrison
Education reporter, BBC News

Graphic from Cybercafe, Think U Know website
Children and teachers helped design the programme
The UK police body which works to stop child sex abuse has launched a new campaign aimed at helping young children to stay safe online.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has designed a new programme for teachers and parents.

It is targeted at children aged from eight to 11 and covers all kinds of internet and text activities.

Chief Executive of CEOP Jim Gamble says the body receives 10 reports a month about children in this age group.

"Children as young as eight are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of the internet," he said.

"But where the natural, innocent naivety of children collides with the open and often unrestricted nature of the virtual world, then their safety is always going to be called into question.

"We see that danger first hand all the time."

8 - 11 year olds (source: Ofcom)
41% regularly use the internet
32% regularly use a mobile phone
56% play computer games
7% of 10 year olds have a web cam

He said there was a growing trend of children going online.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre works to catch paedophiles, many of whom use chat, messaging and social network sites to find victims.

It has designed a series of online activities, resources and lesson plans for children, parents and teachers.

Children can play a series of games in a "Cybercafe" on CEOP's Think U Know website, advising characters on what to do in various online or text scenarios.

'Exciting place'

The programme was developed with Becta, the organisation charged by the government with improving the use of technology in learning. Teachers and children were involved in designing it.

Stephen Crowne, chief executive of Becta said: "The internet provides a world of possibilities and is an exciting and informative place for young people to explore and enjoy, but we must do everything we can to make sure that this is a safe environment.

They were telling her she was beautiful, they said she should come to their house
Mother of nine year old

"This means that there is a duty of care on parents and education practitioners when children are at school or at home."

Last September, CEOP launched a campaign for secondary schools and reached more than a million students.

The team say they want to "empower" children by giving them safe surfing guidelines and by telling them how to report online abuse. With so many internet-aware children online, this will make the web a hostile environment for paedophiles, they say.

The new campaign is aimed at pupils from Year 3 upwards and the plan is to have one for even younger children next year. The organisation thinks it is vital children are made aware of the possible dangers.

TIPS FOR CHILDREN (from CEOP)
Don't give your real name on gaming sites
Best not to have anyone on your IM (instant messaging) list that you don't know in the real world
You can block people in IM and chat areas
Best not to meet people you meet online, they might not be who they say they are
Tell an adult you trust if an online friend asks to meet you
Report a contact to CEOP if you think they might be an adult

A CEOP spokeswoman said: "We receive over 400 online reports a month from children, young people and adults and we are seeing reports from younger and younger children, some as young as seven."

Schools which opt to take part can access resources, including games and lesson plans, to help give children safe guidelines on e-mailing, mobile phones, cyber-bullying, social networking and online "stranger danger".

In secondary schools, the approach of the Think U Know campaign was to go into schools directly - but to let children take the lead and speak about their experiences.

Helen Penn, head of CEOP's education team, said: "We have been rolling the Think U Know campaign for more than a year now and have reached over one million young people with the message on how to report a problem online and the message is getting through.

Personal information

"In October last year, we went into school after school and saw a big increase in the reporting of online abuse. There were significant peaks."

Although the approach with younger children is less hard-hitting than that aimed at teenagers, many safety tips are similar: not giving out personal information such as names, ages and addresses, where they go to school, their instant messaging address.

The body also works with partners in the internet industry to make web sites "safer by design", for example in encouraging them to give users automatic anonymity unless they choose to publish their personal information.

Mick Brooks, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says the issue of children and internet safety is one of "constant anxiety".

"It's a bit like sending your children out anywhere - there are dangers.

"The two main ones are that they might access sites and experiences not appropriate to young children and that they are vulnerable to predators."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Children give their views on using computers safely



SEE ALSO
When online friends spell danger
22 Oct 07 |  Education
Pupils reminded of internet safety
20 Sep 06 |  Education

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