Stranger danger

With the dangers of our online world thrown in to the limelight again following a docu-drama about the tragic death of Breck Bednar, it is so important to talk through dangers and danger signs with children of any age.

Online games and social network interaction are the ‘norm’ in 2016 and unless you have decided to live a technology free existence, all children will come in to contact with online ‘strangers’ at some point. There is no way of totally controlling, or having control over, who or what young people are interacting with in the cyber world but there are definitely ways that, as teachers or as a school, you can educate and check that the online world is not becoming a dangerous place to be.

Reiterating the dangers of communicating with strangers online is key. Keeping young people aware and conscious about being careful who they speak with or give details to, is a responsibility that today’s teachers, schools and parents must take seriously. But no matter how ‘sensible’ or ‘mature’ we think our children are, they are always vulnerable to making an error of judgement and their naivety exposed.

Here is a quick fire list of things to look out for that could raise an alarm that a young person is in danger:

  • An unhealthy or heightened use of online games or internet browsing.
  • A young person suddenly becoming secretive about who they are communicating with or dismissive when questioned.
  • New electronic devices that were not purchased by a child/young adult or their parent/s.
  • Does a child/young adult you know suddenly switch screen displays when you walk in a room or always lock their tablet/phone screen?
  • A change in language that you are not used to a child/young adult using.
  • Unexplained extreme emotional or personality alterations.

Top tips to prevent this happening to any child in your care:

  • Be open and continually explain the dangers of online gaming, social networking and other ways of communicating with strangers on the internet.
  • Ask about any online friends a child/young adult may have and whether or not information should be shared with them. Also highlight that it is easy for people to lie about themselves.
  • Make sure you are always available and willing to talk through any concerns a child/young adult may have about people they are communicating with online.
  • Educate yourself about the dangers out there and who you need to contact with any concerns.
  • For more information look at websites like thinkuknow.co.uk/parents.

Emma Williams

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