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PSNI defends posting graphic text code and urges parents to be aware of who children talk to online

Should police have posted it?

By Claire Williamson

The PSNI have defended posting a graphic 'texting' code which could be used by young people to disguise their conversations.

Officers in Newry and Mourne posted the code on its Facebook page at the weekend.

With the numerous online chat methods currently available such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Whatsapp - officers said it was important for parents to be aware of the language being used by their children.

While the post was met with ridicule and scepticism by some Facebook users - police have said it is not an exhaustive list and that it is something that parents should be aware of.

Some of the posts are relatively straightforward - however others are of a more obscene sexual nature and indicate a degree of keeping the conversation secret.

Such as, MOS - Mom over shoulder, PAW parents are watching, PIR parents in room.

Officers later clarified that it was an American resource and that while not all codes may be used here in Northern Ireland "prevention is better than cure".

It said: "As a follow up to the text talk post just to clarify that this was an American resource and indeed some of the codes may not be being used here but it is something to be aware off if you see cryptic messages on your kids devices.

"Also prevention is better than cure so speak to your kids about their online activity, what they are using and respect the age limits of social media platforms – is it proper to set up a kid with a Facebook account at 8 years old? What is an appropriate age to give your child a smart phone / device and data / wifi access?

"There are hundreds of text talk codes – a simple online search will reveal what any codes you spot actually mean."

NSPCC Northern Ireland campaigns manager Margaret Gallagher said it is important that young people and their parents have agreed rules on what is acceptable online.

Ms Gallagher told the Belfast Telegraph: "Teenagers will always want to create coded language that can't be understood by their parents - it's natural and not necessarily something to get overly concerned about.

“The key thing for parents to keep their children safe online is to talk about staying safe and agreeing rules together about what’s ok and what isn’t.

“Communication and building trust with your child is the most important thing.

“The web can be a fantastic place for children and young people to socialise, explore their interests, and learn, but every parent buying an internet device should be aware that there are risks, too and think about installing parental controls.

“The NSPCC has lots of resources to help parents talk about online issues so that they can help keep a child safe and happy online.

“Children also need reassurance that, if things do go wrong, they have someone they can turn to.”

Detective Superintendent George Clarke told BBC Good Morning Ulster that the graphic messages were something parents needed to be aware of.

He said: "Parents must be involved in their children's lives online and well as offline.

"You wouldn't allow children to go off in a car with people you don't know, so let's be careful about who they're interacting with online."

Information for parents on keeping children safe online is available on the NSPCC website

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