‘Cybercafe’ To Protect Under-11s From Abuse

Children as young as eight are to be protected from online sexual abuse in a new initiative by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Developed in conjunction with BECTA, the government-funded body dealing with technology in education, the new “ThinkuKnow” initiative is based around an online “cyber-cafe” where children learn how to use the internet, for fun and for homework, safely.

A range of characters, “Griff”, “Sunil”, “Jason”, “Chloe”, “Ali” and “Sam”, teach them about various types of internet communication, such as email and web browsing.

advertisementJim Gamble, Chief Executive of the CEOP Centre, said: “What we have learnt from children and teachers alike is that children as young as eight are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of the internet.

“But where the natural, innocent naivety of children collides with the open and often unrestricted nature of the virtual world then their safety is always going to be called into question.

“We see that danger first hand all the time. At CEOP we receive on average 10 reports a month relating specifically to children between the ages of 8-11 years.”

He highlighted the growing level of internet use among young people. “We know from OFCOM that over forty per cent of this age group are regularly using the internet, and seven per cent of ten-year-olds even have their own webcams. That trend is growing.”

Stressing that the intention was not “sensationalist headlines” to “strike fear”, Mr Gamble stressed that the organisation wanted children to use the internet.

“We want them to benefit from the whole multitude of opportunities it opens up”, he said. “But we want them to do it in a way that safeguards their time in the virtual world”.

While the initiative may be unique in itself, the idea of making safety education fun is not, and there will be concerns over how well the “cybercafe” will engage children. However, said Mr Gamble, “teachers and children have been involved in the design, content and overall layout”, hopefully ensuring that it finds its mark with its target audience.