Police in Portadown have launched a new campaign to educate parents and children on the act of so-called ‘sexting’, a practice where kids are taking indecent images of themselves and passing them on to a member of their peer group.
Keeping children safe online is the focus of Portadown Neighbourhood Policing Team’s Social Media Sexting Awareness Initiative, which has been up and running for a number of months.
Officers have been visiting local schools and parents groups to highlight the dangers that social media and sexting can present.
Sexting is where young people take an indecent image of themself and send it to a member of their peer group. In this type of offending the victim can find themselves guilty of possessing an indecent image of a child and, if they send the image on to friends, they can be guilty of distributing an indecent image of a child.
Constable McElhinney, Portadown NPT, said today (Wednesday): “Many young people do not realise that they are straying into criminal territory and are naive about exactly what they are getting involved in. Possessing or distributing an indecent image of a child are serious offences and carry a prison term of up to 10 years for any adult found guilty of this offence.
“Most of this type of offending among teenagers is peer to peer. It is essential that young people are made aware of the seriousness of this type of activity and that victims can also be guilty of offences.
“We have been visiting local schools to raise awareness of this and make young people aware of the consequences this activity can have on future career, employment and travel prospects.”
While the internet is a useful facility for young people, there are a number of risks which young people can be exposed to.
These include: cyberbullying, grooming, inappropriate websites, losing control of pictures and videos, online reputation, overuse/addiction, viruses, hacking and security.
Police are asking all parents to familiarise themselves with a number of steps which can be taken to limit these risks for their children.
Become a net-savvy parent – The best safeguard against online dangers is being informed. Jump in and learn the basics of the Internet—read articles, take a class, and talk to other parents. A good place to start with some basics is www.LearnTheNet.com. You don’t have to be an expert to have a handle on your child’s online world.
Chat with your kids – Talk to your children about the benefits and dangers of the internet. Cultivate an interest in their online activities – their favourite websites, online games and interests. And don’t be afraid to ask your children who they are talking to online and what they are talking about.
Agree on a game plan – Use the InternetSafety.com Gameplan™ to formally agree on your family’s guidelines for using the Internet. Post them near the family computer as a reminder. Ensure that your kids know never to share personal information on the Internet and that they should tell you about any online activity or contact that makes them uncomfortable.
Protect your computer – Take advantage of the software that exists to help parents manage their children’s computer experience. In only a few minutes, parental control software can block inappropriate websites, restrict the amount of time that your kids use the internet and monitor their Instant Messenger chats to protect against predators.
Explore the internet as a family – With a game plan and a protected computer, you can now encourage your family to take advantage of all that the internet has to offer. Take a genuine interest in what your kids are doing and stay engaged with them online.
Constable McElhinney continued: “Parents who have attended some of the internet safety sessions have told us that they found the information useful and were surprised at how easy some of these preventative steps are.
“The fact is that this generation of parents is the first to face the challenge of keeping their children safe in a virtual space and it can be daunting if you don’t know much about the internet. Our message is that there are lots of ways you can take control and a lot of information available to help you make safe choices.
“If you are interested in hosting one of our internet safety presentations for your group, please contact us in Portadown on 0845 600 8000.”
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