#childsafety | Police warn parents to check children’s social media feeds

Police in Fermanagh are warning parents to keep an eye on their children’s social media feeds after they have been made aware of a “disturbing” online game.

Known as the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have described the online game as “a disturbing challenge aimed at teenagers to get them to self harm”.

Noting that while the internet is a useful facility for young people, a spokewoman for the PSNI highlighted a number of risks which young people can be exposed to.

These include: sexual exploitation, grooming, inappropriate websites, losing control of pictures and videos, online reputation, overuse/addiction, viruses, hacking and security.

Thr PSNI spokeswoman stated: “Cyber enabled and facilitated crimes are a growing area of concern for police.”

She continued: “As social media becomes more and more a part of everyday life some individuals will seek to exploit the relatively anonymous and removed nature of interaction via social media to abuse or intimidate.”

“With teenagers spending an increasing amount of time online young people are particularly at risk from cyber-crime. The ease of access to social media and other networks provided by Smartphone technology means that children are now rarely if ever ‘offline’,” the spokeswoman added.

Commenting that although everyone deserves to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other, the PSNI spokeswoman added: “All of us need to be aware that there are risks, especially on social media.”

Offering general advice, she shared: “Don’t share personal information or images with people who you don’t know. Don’t accept friend requests with someone you don’t know – not everyone online is who they say they are. Set privacy settings on all devices so that only people you know can view your account.”

Advising people not to post anything online that they are not happy to be shared, the spokeswoman continued: “Particularly nude or nearly nude images or videos. It may seem like a bit of fun with friends at the time but there is always a chance those images could be shared or get into the wrong hands and could lead to harmful situations such as stalking, abuse or blackmail.”

“If you have had disturbing interaction online, ring police on 101. If you receive any inappropriate images or links, it is important that you do not forward it to anyone else. Contact police immediately. By doing this you could help prevent further such incidents,” she added.

Providing general advice to parents, the PSNI spokeswoman outlined: “The most important thing is to have conversations with your children – talk to them about the benefits and dangers of the internet so that you can empower them to use the internet safely.

“Cultivate an interest in their online activities – their favourite websites, online games and interests and keep an eye on what they are doing online.

“Don’t be afraid to ask your children who they are talking to online and what they are talking about and remind them how important it is to tell a trusted adult if something happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable or worried because there are people who can help.

“Become a net-savvy parent – the best safeguard against online dangers is being informed. Jump in and learn the basics of the Internet – read articles, take a class, and talk to other parents. You don’t have to be an expert to have a handle on your child’s online world,” the PSNI spokeswoman concluded.

Go to www.getsafeonline.org for lots of useful advice and information on how to stay safe online. Other useful websites:

Internet Safety advice: http://www.psni.police.uk/index/crime-prevention/personal/internet-safety.htm

General advice on how to stay safe online: www.getsafeonline.org and http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/ and http://www.ceop.police.uk/

Useful videos offering advice on how to talk to your children about staying safe online: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/Nude-Selfies-What-parents-and-carers-need-to-know/

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