Children as young as seven are being given lessons in internet safety across schools in Leeds.
They are told not to share their personal details with potential predators and given tips about internet security settings.
But a Leeds-based internet safety charity has warned parents should be on the frontline of educating children about staying safe online.
Dave Hill from D:Side has taught thousands of the city’s children about how to avoid becoming a victim on the internet.
They are told to shield their identities through avatars and report inappropriate behaviour.
Dave Hill from safety charity D:Side leads the sessions and has been into dozens of schools across Leeds to make sure children know how to stay safe.
He said headteachers have also approached him for advice because they are hearing reports of pupils being bullied through social networking websites.
He also said that he has been told by youngsters who play computer games that they have been approached to meet strangers in real life after playing against them.
And he warned that children as young as seven are being taught about the potential dangers of the internet in school.
He said: “In the first year we went into about 60 different schools and spoke to children in years five and six.
“But now we are getting calls from headteachers saying that they would like us to run lessons for children in years three and four.
“A lot of children know not to meet a stranger but internet safety is a massive conversation to have.
“Children are too trusting and they see what they want to see.
“If they are playing a game against someone who lives in America who is 12 years old they want to believe it.
“They have to almost think the worst in everything they are doing and it is not very nice.
“Computers are fantastic and you can do so much on them but with everything that is brilliant there are always dangers.”
D:Side has received money from Leeds Community Foundation to help continue its vital work in the community.
Over the last 17 years they have been educating youngsters about safety awareness in the community and now they have extended their remit to cover online dangers.
But David warned that parents need to have difficult conversations with children to make sure they are digitally aware.
And he stressed that it is more important than ever before because of the advances in technology.
David said: “There is a lot of naïvety and a lot of children think they know the ins and outs of social networking.
“They know how to put photos on and talk to people but they haven’t got a clue when it comes to security levels and the use of GPS.
“It is really worrying the amount of children who are on sites such as Facebook and they don’t really know what they are doing. Quite a lot of parents set it up for children because they think it is the norm for children to have.
“It’s a challenge to keep on top of technology and if you mention things like Facebook to children in high school they will say that it is so last year - even though they are not old enough to use it.
“A lot of technology is mobile but in the past there might have been one computer set up downstairs in the lounge or dining room where mum and dad are.
“You can walk around with tablets and use it in the bedroom.
“But parents need to monitor children and don’t let them go off with a tablet and get to know what they are doing.
“Technology is moving so fast and it is quite worrying because children have to use it.
“Parents need to keep that line of conversation open but a lot of children know far more about technology and going online than their mums and dads.”
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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