Since the lockdown began, many parents have faced the challenges of home-schooling but it is now coming to an end for this term.  The school holidays begin very soon and like everything else, over the last few months,  they will be very different from previous years. Many families will not be going on holiday and there may be less availability of summer activities so it’s inevitable that children and young people will be spending more time online. There is no doubt that social media and gaming sites have proven to be a lifeline for parents, carers and their children as they have adapted to being at home during lockdown but more time online has brought with it heightened risk for young people and increased opportunity for offenders.

Recent NSPCC research revealed children who are lonely, like attention and rely on social media are more than twice as likely to be groomed online. And recently the National Crime Agency warned of a spike in child sex offending during the coronavirus crisis, with new information leading it to conclude that there a minimum of 300,000 individuals in the UK who pose a sexual threat to children.

Regular family discussion about children’s digital lives has never been more important. Parents can also get further support via the NSPCC and O2’s co-created resource Net Aware, designed to help parents and children information on the latest social media sites, apps and games and be a helpful part of coping with self-isolation.

Additionally, to help people in Northern Ireland keep their children safe online,  the NSPCC and O2 are now delivering virtual online safety talks for parents. They are free to join and are presented by experienced NSPCC staff, who provide advice, tips, and signposting to free resources and extra support.  The charity and the telecommunications giant are working together to provide  these free 30 minute webinars for parents, grandparents and carers. Topics include:

·         Why children enjoy using the internet and how it can help them, as well as the risks

·         Concerns that families might have about their child’s use of the internet

·         Exploring how families can navigate the digital landscape together, safely

NSPCC Northern Ireland’s Service  Head, Local Campaigns,  Margaret Gallagher said:

“The internet is an amazing place for children where they can play, create, learn and connect – the possibilities are endless. But there are also risks. The coronavirus pandemic has, unfortunately, generated the conditions for a perfect storm in online abuse. And we want to help mitigate that danger. Our webinars are free and are designed to give parents and carers a virtual opportunity to collate advice, tips and support, along with signposting to other free and useful resources. Talking to your child about their digital lives is really important and these webinars are here to make that discussion much easier.”

If you’d like to organise a webinar for yourself or on behalf of a group (community group, staff team or school), please contact parentworkshops@nspcc.org.uk

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan

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