Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ulster cybercop and the online cafe that keeps kids safe

The Ulsterman who heads the UK police organisation which tackles child sex abuse has launched a new Cybercafe website to protect children from online predators.

The website - www.thinkuknow.co.uk/cybercafe - uses state of the art technology to create a site where children between the ages of eight and 11 will meet a character called Gryff and his friends while learning about different aspects of online safety.

It is the first time that children as young as eight have been the focus of an online safety programme.

Through a series of games, the children can help the characters use the internet to complete their homework, send emails and text messages, post online forums and a host of other activities safely. There is also a glossary for children to use should they need help in understanding online language.

Bangor-born Jim Gamble is the head of the Child Online Exploitation Centre (CEOP) which is behind the new initiative.

The former RUC officer said: "What we have learnt from children and teachers alike is that children as young as eight are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of the internet.

"But where the natural, innocent naivety of children collides with the open and often unrestricted nature of the virtual world then their safety is always going to be called into question.

"We see that danger first hand all the time. At CEOP we receive on average 10 reports a month relating specifically to children between the ages of eight to 11 years. That should concern us all."

Mr Gamble added: "So I say this to all teachers. If you are working with children between the ages of eight and 11 years then please now work with us and help deliver this resource.

" After all many of you have said to us that you want this kind of service and teachers and children have been involved in the design, content and overall layout. Not only that but it is totally free. So download the lesson plans, explore the virtual world with your class at your side and help us make children safer today."

It is intended that the programme can be delivered either as a stand-alone online service for children and parents at home, or through teachers in schools who can download lesson plans and other resources - all of which are free.

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