West Yorkshire Police and the NSPCC are asking parents to spend just five minutes having an online safety chat with their children today.
The force launched a new ‘Your Child’ campaign on Monday, backed by the NSPCC, Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
News of the new campaign falls in a YEP week-long series of special reports focusing on youngster’s mental health as part of Child Mental Health Week.
The ‘Your Child’ campaign uses a simple gif to ask parents if they know who their children are speaking to and playing games with online.
The theme for this year’s Safer Internet Day is “Together for a better internet” and highlights the need for the government, social media companies and parents to do their bit to ensure children are safe online.
With children now using the internet for school work from a younger age, the NSPCC say that is it vital that parents understand how various online platforms work and help to instill good habits in their kids to protect them from potential online abuse.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We support Safer Internet Day every year and it is a great opportunity to launch this important campaign – it would be great if parents and guardians could have a discussion with their children about online activity in support of the campaign as it could help them to remain safe.
“Every parent or guardian would want their children to enjoy the benefits that online activity can hold, so the campaign is just to encourage those discussions that could assist in protecting young people while they use the internet in a positive manner.
"The force has produced a quick animation to help spread the message and we will regularly be updating our social media accounts as the campaign continues.”
The NSPCC will be delivering training sessions for police staff and officers to support their work.
Helen Westerman, the NSPCC’s campaigns manager, said: “The messaging behind the Your Child campaign is very simple but really can help protect our children in their online worlds.
“The internet is an amazing place for young people to learn, create and build friendships. To children, online friends are real friends and online life is real life. There’s no difference.
"So it’s vital that we do all we can to help keep them safe and they know how to get help if they need it."
Phil Coneron, LSCP manager, said: “Through the Your Child campaign we hope to encourage parents and carers to take an interest in their child’s online activity and who are they speaking to.
“A regular five-minute chat would give your child the opportunity to talk to you, should anything upset them that they see or hear online.”
Dr Mark Peel, Independent Chair of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership, said:
“As a parent or carer, if your child is invited to a party or wants to visit a new friend, you would want to know where they are going and who they’re with.
“Talking to your child about who they are making friends with online is just the same. Five minutes is all it takes to talk to your child about what’s right and what’s not, and helps keep them safe online.”
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson said:
“The ever expanding online environment means that our children are increasingly exposed to the potential of exploitation and abuse. The forms in which this can manifest itself are not, however, immediately obvious without the correct knowledge and insight.
“This is why it is incredibly important that parents and carers take a central role in educating both themselves and their children.
“Only a couple of weeks ago did I launch an innovative animation called ‘Mr Shapeshifter’, which I have grant funded to help protect young people online.
“It will really help with your conversations with your children and I would encourage everyone to take a look www.mrshapeshifter.com.”