WEST FIFE kids as young as five have fallen asleep in school after playing violent 18-rated games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto V all night.
Police in Dunfermline also told the Press of their concerns relating to cyber bullying, primary pupils ‘sexting’ – sending indecent images to each other – and the ease with which youngsters can access hardcore pornography.
The force visits every Fife school to deliver internet safety talks and crime prevention officer Fraser Laird said parents and kids should know about the dangers online.
He said: “We’re giving children smartphones which are more powerful than the computer that launched Apollo 13.
“And there’s free wifi practically everywhere now. Kids are not daft. They’re inquisitive and if they’ve got a chance to look at things they will do.
“It’s easier for them to get access to hardcore porn and you wonder how that affects them?”
PC Laird continued: “It’s the same with gaming and young kids playing 18-rated games. They’re 18 for a reason.
“We’ve had teachers telling us about five-year-old kids falling asleep in school as they were up all night playing games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto 5.
“And the language from the games, they’re using it in their schoolwork too.
“We go into P6 classes and over half of them will happily tell you they’re playing these games and that mum bought it, or dad or gran.
“When you ask them if they should be playing it, they all know they shouldn’t.
“A lot of the kids say that dad switches off the blood and guts and the swearing but the principle’s still there, a game where you shoot people.
“Should they be playing that at five?”
Kids have always had it drummed into them that they should never speak to a stranger but that message has been harder to grasp for youngsters online.
PC Laird explained: “These games can also be used for grooming.
“When we ask kids in the schools how many of them have played live online and talked to someone they didn’t know, there’s always four or five in every class.
“Now you wouldn’t go out of your house, stop the first stranger you meet and give them your name, phone number, school and pictures from your holiday, but they do online.
“We had one recently where a 10-year-old boy assumed he was talking to someone the same age. It later became a police matter and it turned out to be an 18-year-old man. Why’s he doing that? And what’s he talking to a 10-year-old boy about?
“They should never give out personal information, no matter how nice the person is or appears to be.”
The secondary school talks include warnings about sexting, which is the sending and receiving of sexually-explicit messages or images, often photos of body parts and usually by phone, which can have far-reaching implications.
PC Laird said it could lead to bullying, harassment or intimidation, as well as criminal charges of distributing or possessing child pornography.
He said: “When we do the talk at S1 on sexting, there’s a lot of giggling and laughing as some of them have done it, but when you tell them they could end on the sex offenders’ register, you can feel the mood change and it becomes serious.
“It could be a girl sending a pic to a boyfriend, or vice-versa, and it’s passed round friends, then the school, then it goes wider.
“Once it’s on the internet, you’ve lost control. We’ve actually had primary school kids taking indecent pics of themselves too.
“People have hold of that image and can do what they please, it can lead to blackmail, revenge porn, all sorts of trouble.
“It can destroy people’s lives as you have no idea where or when those pics are going to pop up.”
PC Laird remembered the tragic case of Daniel Perry, a Dunfermline teenager who died in July 2013 after falling victim to a ‘sextortion’ attempt which lured young people to post intimate images.
The 17-year-old believed he was talking to an American girl online but was told by blackmailers the conversations had been recorded and the content shared with friends and family unless he paid up.
Daniel’s last message to loved ones was simply ‘Bye’. A short time later, he jumped from the Forth Road Bridge.
The trail led police to the Philippines and links to organised crime groups.
He said: “I remember that all too well, it was horrific. That poor lad took his own life as he was isolated and didn’t know what to do.
“That’s how serious it can be. And there there are people taking their own lives because of straightforward bullying too.”