Youngsters at a Leeds primary school were sent an inappropriate image by an adult pretending to be a child online.
The children, who had set up their own gaming group, were approached by the predator who was posing as a child on the internet.
The Yorkshire Evening Post revealed yesterday child protection experts in Leeds claim advances in digital technology is making it easier for children to fall victim to cyberbullying and online grooming.
Statistics show in just one Leeds primary school around 39 per cent of children use phones and 32 per cent use games consoles to access the internet alongside computers and tables.
Today parents are going to be given lessons to highlight the potential dangers children face when using these devices to open up a whole new digital world.
The event, which is being held at Prince Henry’s Grammar School this evening, is designed to arm parents with the skills to keep their children safe online.
Sandy Blunn, learning mentor at Bramhope Primary, said: “We have found, as have the other primary schools in Otley, that children are increasingly accessing the internet privately using electronic devices.
“While there is no problem with this if children are appropriately protected, we do want parents to consider who this might mean children are inviting into their bedrooms, via the internet, without realising it.
“Children are spending more time messaging, skyping and setting up internet gaming groups than they are talking and it is very easy for them to be approached inappropriately.
“Children can be very trusting and open on the internet and don’t always understand the safety issues and consequences.”
Phil Temple, cluster manager and assistant headteacher at Prince Henry’s Grammar, added: “While any device run through a school based internet service is protected by very strong firewalls, it is use at home where the primary school heads were concerned that these protections are not necessarily in place.”
And top child protection experts from West Yorkshire Police have told the YEP that parents need to have difficult conversations with children to make sure they are aware of the dangers.
Det Insp Lawrence Bone said: “It is a challenge for parents because they are difficult conversations to have. If it is not appropriate in the real world then it is not appropriate on the internet.
“Parents should be monitoring how much children use the internet and also spot if there are any significant changes in their children’s behaviour.
“It’s not just about sexual abuse parents also need to consider if their child is being bullied online or are they looking at self harming websites?”
Det Insp Chris Gibson added: “Keep any profile provide and think before you post. Don’t share passwords and make sure they are robust and not easily guessable.
“Just be careful who you chat with because not every one is who they say they are. A lot of the key factors are about proving the suspect knew the age of the person they were chatting with so it is important to be honest about your age.
“If something untoward occurs don’t delete it, report it..”
More than 4,500 young people contacted ChildLine in one year for advice on how to deal with being bullied through social networking sites, chat rooms, online gaming sites and through their mobile phones.
Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC added: “The issues facing children today are very different from those that faced us as children.
“Stranger danger, for example, rarely comes up in contacts to ChildLine but online bullying, depression, self-harm and even suicide contacts are increasing exponentially.
“If we are to help young people we need to listen.”
CHILDREN’S PANEL REVEAL THEIR DIGITAL THOUGHTS
The Yorkshire Evening Post’s very own Children’s Panel say youngsters are more digitally aware than adults think.
The panel, who recently met at Leeds Town Hall, said they are taught about internet safety in the classroom and from their families.
And they say growing up with technology means that children often know more about computers than adults.
Andrew Brook, 11, said: “I think adults think we go on stuff we should not be looking at on the internet.
“Sometimes they think we don’t know what to do but that isn’t the case.
“Children have just grown up with technology around them and know how to use it.”
Mia Sudbury,12, said her tablet has special safeguards to block inappropriate material.
She added: “My parents have put parental controls on it so if anything nasty does pop up it gets blocked.”
Sophie Poole, 11, said she thinks some grown-ups fear that all children will come into contact with inappropriate messages over the internet.
She warned: “There are lots of reports saying that people get nasty messages but it doesn’t happen to everyone and grown ups sometimes think it will happen to all children but in reality it might only be a small number.”
Olivia Broadhead,10, said she thinks youngsters have benefited from growing up around technology.
She added: “Children know about technology more than adults do. My granny said that when she was younger she only had a tiny television and a fire place. I think children know more about computers than some adults.”
WHO TO CONTACT OVER ONLINE SAFETY ISSUES
CEOP: Information for children, adults or teachers on staying safe on the internet
NSPCC: 0808 800 5000, email firstname.lastname@example.org
West Yorkshire Police on 101
Internet Watch Foundation
ChildLine on 0800 11 11
HOW IMPORTANT IS DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY TO YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN?
This week the YEP is looking at the digital lives of children in Leeds.
We want children, parents, carers and teachers to tell us a little bit more about how they consume technology. Can you go the day without any form of technology?
How much of a role does technology play in your lives?
Do you find your children tell you everything you need to know about how to use the computer?
And what are your top tips for children in Leeds about how to stay safe online?
Tell us your thoughts at www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk.
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