The NSPCC and West Yorkshire Police are urging parents across the county to take just five minutes to have an online safety chat with their children to mark Safer Internet Day 2019.

The children’s charity along with Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner yesterday backed the launch of the force’s Your Child campaign, which through a simple Gif asks parents if they know who their children are speaking to and playing games with online.

Today (Tuesday 5th February) is Safer Internet Day and the call for a five minute chat with our children fits in with this year’s theme, “Together for a better internet.” Only by all of us, including Government and social media companies, working together will we be able to keep our children safe online. As parents, it is vital that we understand regular online chats can instill life-long good habits that will help protect them from predators.

As you would put your seatbelt on before driving off, or looking both ways when crossing the road, so too should you and your children be regularly checking privacy settings and discussing how to block locations. To understand that people aren’t always who they say they are, teaching your children to be Share Aware is vital.

Helen Westerman, the NSPCC’s campaign’s manager said “The messaging behind the Your Child campaign is very simple but really can help protect our children in their online worlds. The key is to talk openly and regularly, be positive, but also be open about any concerns so that they have the confidence to talk to you or a trusted adult if they come across something that is not age appropriate or unsettling.”

Carl*, a father from Yorkshire, is urging all of us to take those five minutes to talk to our children about online safety after abusers used video-chatting app Skype to target his son Ben*.  When Ben was 14, a man in his twenties pretended to be a teenage girl and groomed him on Facebook. Over two years that man and five more abusers exploited Ben by using blackmail and threats to coerce him into sending explicit pictures and performing sex acts on Skype.

Carl said: “Ben tried to get out of the situation so many times but he couldn’t get out. He was trapped and was too frightened to tell anyone. It’s been devastating. It is understandable that talking about our children’s online world can seem daunting but Carl warned, “It’s completely new to our generation. We just let Ben get on with it, we had no idea that there was anything to worry about or that there dangers of any kind. We thought he was using it for schoolwork.

“We blamed ourselves and I thought we’d failed. You just feel like you’ve haven’t done your job as a parent. You feel like you haven’t done enough to protect your children, who are the world to you. You ask yourselves ‘why didn’t we see it? Why didn’t we notice?’ There is always that ‘why’.”

Phil Coneron, LSCP Manager said “Through the Your Child campaign we hope to encourage parents and carers to take an interest in their child’s online activity and who are they speaking to. A regular 5 minute chat would give your child the opportunity to talk to you, should anything upset them that they see or hear online.”

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson of West Yorkshire Police, said; “We support Safer Internet Day every year and it is a great opportunity to launch this important campaign – it would be great if parents and guardians could have a discussion with their children about online activity in support of the campaign as it could help them to remain safe.

“A five minute chat could make a real difference, as we know that online dangers include people suggesting they are someone who they are not, trying to befriend young people and then asking them to share images of themselves or meet up in real life.

“Children should tell their parents if someone does try to talk to or befriend them online that they do not know.  It’s so important to talk and encourage that approach.”

“Every parent or guardian would want their children to enjoy the benefits that online activity can hold, so the campaign is just to encourage those discussions that could assist in protecting young people while they use the internet in a positive manner.”

“The Force has produced a quick animation to help spread the message and we will regularly be updating our social media accounts as the campaign continues.

“A Minute on a Monday video has also been produced by the Force and NSPCC and as part of the campaign the charity will be delivering some training sessions for staff and officers.”

* Names have been changed to protect anonymity