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Keep young people safe online whilst schools are closed

27 Mar 2020
  • Advice for young people spending more time online.

  • Children risk exploitation from online grooming if left unsupervised.

  • Ensure you know who young people are talking to online.

The closure of many schools due to the coronavirus means that opportunities for children to talk to and play with friends will be limited to online interaction. This will almost certainly lead to children spending more time online. Parents working from home may not be able to monitor their children’s use of internet enabled devices as they usually would.

Children motivated by boredom could start to engage with new groups or individuals and this in turn could make them vulnerable to those looking to groom young people.

Detective Sergeant Marc Willmore, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Halo - Safeguarding Vulnerable Children team, said: “Parents and carers should encourage children to be open about what they are doing online. Keep gaming devices, computers and tablets in the living room, use parental controls and keep up to date on the apps and games children are using. Whilst they’re using the internet, ask children to show you what they enjoy doing online and the apps they’re using, so you can understand them.
 
“It is useful to explore the social networks, apps and games your child uses. Reassure your children that if they're worried about anything they see online, they can come to you. Ask your children about their online “friends” and how they know them. Remind children that people online may not be who they say they are and warn them of the dangers of being groomed.”
 
Online grooming may be hard for parents to recognise and groomers may specifically warn children not to talk to anyone about it. There are a number of signs to be aware of (although a lot of them are quite common among teens), but look out for increased instances of:
 
· wanting to spend more and more time on the internet
· being secretive about who they are talking to online and what sites they visit
· switching screens when you come near the computer
· possessing items – electronic devices or phones – you haven’t given them
· using sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know
· becoming emotionally volatile
 
Groomers often target young people by sending out friend requests on popular sites and platforms to see who responds. They may strike up a conversation to build a relationship with a child and ask them to continue the chat privately.
 
Speak to your child about who they are talking to and ensure they genuinely know them. Give them advice about the dangers of sharing personal details with people they don’t know in real life and the potential risks of meeting up with someone in real life.
 
For more advice on how to keep safe online visit and follow @hertspolicehalo for regular updates from our child protection unit.

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