1. ITV Report

Children given 'extra powers' to stop predators online

Children are being asked:'What would you do next?' Photo: PA

Young people who enjoy gaming or chatting online are being taught how to protect themselves from predators trying to exploit them sexually or financially.

‘Safe Skills’ is being offered to schools on Merseyside to give children and teenagers the knowledge and ability to stop older people trying to groom them online and in person.

Merseyside Police has been working with young person’s charity Ariel Trust in Liverpool and the NSPCC to create a free educational package to be delivered by primary and secondary school teachers.

Pupils will get to watch several animated films showing real life scenarios which they can relate to such as gaming in their bedroom or hanging out in a local park which are designed to prompt discussions about ‘what would you do next?’.

The films will show how things like talking to a stranger online while gaming or being encouraged by an older person to bunk off school can put you at risk if that person turns out to have more sinister motives.

Research from the United States suggests that children are more likely to put into practice skills for getting themselves out of risky situations if they have learnt them through role play rather than having just been taught them.

The reason why the Safe Skills project is unique is because it has been developed by children in Merseyside for children in Merseyside and helps give them the relevant and pro-active skills and strategies to know how to behave if they are in a risky situation.

– Paul Ainsworth, director at Ariel Trust

These were were the most important topics to young people:

  • Online gaming
  • Park life
  • Revealing private information online,
  • Talking about your feelings
  • How a bystander can help
Research in US suggests role play of risky situations gets message across Credit: PA

Groomers use the cloak of anonymity the web provides to hide who they really are. Once they have won the victim’s trust, they can exploit them for sexual or financial gain and the consequences for that young person can be dreadful.

“We need to stop this by arming our children with the knowledge and skills to develop an in-built sense of what to be wary of, what to question and how to seek help. The best way of doing this is getting them talking about it with their friends and classmates so that wherever they are, be it on their phone in the playground or on their games console in their bedroom, they know what to do and how to do it.

– Detective Superintendent Dave Brunskill from Merseyside Police’s protecting vulnerable people unit
Watch out for tell-tale signs of grooming Credit: PA

“It shows young people how to spot the tell-tale danger signs of grooming and equips them so they know what to do and who to speak to if they have any concerns or fears. Our aim is to give them the confidence to speak out when they need help.

– Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, Jane Kennedy.