An internet safety project for Muslim mothers and their daughters has exposed “a worrying lack of awareness” of online grooming and bullying.
Project leaders have warned that the recent shock of three teenage girls from London running away to Syria to join Islamic State has been a wake-up call for Leeds families.
Unaware of possible dangers, many families admitted allowing youngsters as young as nine to have unrestricted access to smartphones and tablets during the six-week project at the Hamara Healthy Living Centre, in Beeston.
The initiative, run by arts and development consultants from 21st Century Citizen and Silverleaf Arts and funded by an Awards For All National Lottery grant, started with debate around the dangers of children’s use of technology before views were translated into art, which was unveiled last night.
Zareen Ahmed, from 21CC, explained that the project was the first of its kind in the country but hopes it will be replicated elsewhere. She said: “While we were doing this project those girls went off to Syria and that really injected more passion into it and created a sense of urgency. We now feel it’s something that really needs to be taken seriously.”
Ms Ahmed said that many participants had never even heard of internet grooming, while many had not activated parental controls on their home broadband.
Participants collectively created a 3D interactive art installation depicting issues such as online bullying, grooming and addiction to gadgets – a process that project leaders said helped those with language issues get their points across. The artwork is to remain on display at the Hamara Centre.
Hanif Malik, from Hamara, added: “We want to warn them [families] that when your child is at home texting on the phone, he or she could in fact be talking to someone on the other side of the world.”
Visit hamara.org.uk for further information.