Children should be educated and empowered to deal with online abuse – expert

Children should be educated and empowered to deal with online abuse, an expert has said Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Authorities cannot arrest their way out of the scourge of online child abuse, an expert has said.

Rather than relying on the police, teachers, or social services to keep children safe, they need to be given the right information to make better decisions.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of Ineqe Safeguarding Group, made the comments ahead of the launch of an app aimed at giving parents, teachers, and children the tools to identify, prevent and mitigate the effects of online child abuse.

The Safer Schools App is being rolled out across more than 13,000 schools in the UK and is aimed at educating, empowering and protecting children and young people from online risk.

More than 1,000 schools already use the service that ensures staff, pupils, parents and carers stay up to date and equipped to discuss contemporary online risks.

Mr Gamble, former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (CEOP), told the Press Association: “All you have to do is pick up a newspaper on any given day on any given week, and somewhere you are going to find information about a child having been exposed to risk online, and having potentially been groomed online, or bullied.

“Or, in fact, the deeper you go and the greater your understanding, you will see that whether it is county lines where children are sent from A to B to carry out some criminal act, that technology is engaged and informs what is going on.

“So it is fundamentally integrated into everything that we do.

“We see the impact of children getting access to materials that they shouldn’t, being influenced by people online who have a deviant sexual interest in them.”

He added: “If I learned one thing from my time at CEOP it was this – you can’t arrest your way out of this.

“You can’t rely on the police, social services or teachers, in fact, to keep your children safe.

“What you have got to do is educate and empower them, giving them the right information so that at the right time they make better decisions.”

Mr Gamble said the app made positive use of technology and gives the option for users to search for information on specific concerns.

As well as providing expert information and guidance, the platform provides access to training including safeguarding certifications and managing mental health in education.

It is being delivered by insurance company, Zurich Municipal, through its partnership with Ineqe Safeguarding Group.