THOUSANDS of children across Thurrock learned about internet safety at a roadshow last week and hundreds more have already visited this week.
The Walk On Line roadshow aims to educate children, aged from eight to 11, how to be safe online and how to avoid giving away personal information.
The roadshow is put on by the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board and the sessions are delivered by Essex Police Detective Sergeant, John Woodley.
Over three days last week at Civic Hall in Grays and three days at Orsett Hall this week, around 5,500 school children will have been to the roadshow – every child in that age group across Thurrock.
The session begins with an interactive survey, where the children are asked a series of questions and using handheld keypads, gave their answers which then appeared on-screen as a chart.
They are asked if they’d lied about their age online (most had), if they had seen or been asked to do anything sexual online (around 75% said yes) and if they’d seen anything rude online would they tell their parents or a teacher (just over half said they would).
Over half had posted a video of themselves online and a high percentage said they knew how to keep their personal information safe online – but after watching a short film telling the true story of one young girl who thought she was being safe online, many of the children realised they weren’t being as safe as they thought.
The presentation showed how just by posting a photo online, their location can be seen by someone who knows how to use the ‘Exif data’ – the background information. DS Woodley showed that this data can be used to pinpoint the location to within 10-20m, using longitude and latitude reference points.
Referring to online predators, DS Woodley called them the ‘Dark Web’ and told the young audience that in chat-rooms, not everyone is a peer wanting to talk about school and hobbies. He urged them to remember stranger danger advice and to apply it online, by not chatting with people they don’t know.
The session also included information about how to report abuse, and who to, plus how to remove personal data and photos.
DS Woodley said: “Our message is that stranger danger is very real online. Most people looking to abuse young people will be online and our aims is to make children aware of this without scaring them, but to make sure they know how to stay safe online and be careful.
“Some of the content in the session is very grown-up but this is important at their age, to know how to be safe and continue to be safe as they grow older using the internet as a vital part of their communication with peers.”
Chair of the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board, David Peplow, said: “This is a partnership event and one that takes this education straight to the front line. The adults will also come away knowing something they didn’t before and can then pass this onto young people.”