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Equip your kids with cyber sense before they log on to their new devices this Christmas.

4th December 2017

That’s the message behind a new campaign, from Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC and the Force, aimed at protecting children from online sexual exploitation.

It is hoped parents and carers can ensure children are equipped with internet savvy ahead of using new phones or tablets, by taking on board advice from sites like Get Safe Online.

The awareness drive will begin with pupils from Harton Primary School in South Shields on Monday, December 4.

Commissioner Baird said: “It is essential that we invest time in educating children around the dangers which exist online. Almost four-in-five 12 to 15 year olds and one-in-three 8 to 11 year olds own a mobile phone and most have the freedom to access anyone through many different online platforms. This also means that many people can access them in return, often anonymously.

“This issue adversely affects too many lives in the north east and across the country. That’s often because offenders are highly manipulative: they can use violence and fear, blackmail or make the child feel guilty, worthless or that they have no choice. They are skilled at targeting and grooming young people. Often this online abuse can connect to offline abuse.

“By educating our young people from an early age we can make sure children fully understand that non-violent relationships are healthy and normal. This education can be from within the home and at school. I would fully encourage parents and carers to take a look at sites like Get Safe Online to see the advice available.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to once again urge the government to make personal, social and health education a statutory provision in schools to help tackle the issue of child sexual exploitation.”

Northumbria Police Temporary Chief Constable Winton Keenen said: “I would urge all parents and carers to help ensure children are aware of the potential dangers when using devices, such as phones and tablets, online.

“There are a number of measures which can be put in place to help protect them when using internet enabled devices and we would encourage everyone to take these precautions.

“We want young people to have the confidence and knowledge to use devices in a safe way and tell an appropriate adult if they are being asked to do something which they feel uncomfortable about or know is wrong.”

He added: “Northumbria Police are committed to tackling all types of cyber-crime and tracking down those who exploit and prey on children. However, we should also do all we can to help prevent someone becoming a victim. That is why campaigns like the one we are supporting today are so important.”

Get Safe Online CEO Tony Neate said: “If you decide to treat your child to a new smartphone, watch or tablet this Christmas, make sure you go through the set up with them so all the security options are put in place properly.

“Take time to explain to them that having a pin and security software on a phone or tablet is just as important to protect their new device as putting a case on it is to protect it if it’s dropped.

“Another handy trick is to plan time in to do the set up before you wrap the present so you don’t have to interrupt the fun when they unwrap it on Christmas Day. Add it to your list of things to do, like you would batteries for other electronic toys. Small steps like this will go a long way to keeping your children safe when they’re online.”