Safer Internet Day was officially marked by schools across Lisburn and Castlereagh last week with the delivery of an interactive play to highlight the dangers of using the web inappropriately.
The initiative, which was supported by Lisburn & Castlereagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), local police and Lisburn YMCA, was delivered on February 7 - 9.
Due to the widespread use of social media among young people, the play was used to highlight the dangers associated with inappropriate use of the internet. It portrayed the potential dangers of making friends online, grooming and sexting, and the use of social media generally.
The play was performed for Year 8 and 9 pupils from Dundonald High, Breda Academy, Lagan College, St Patrick`s Academy, Lisnagarvey High and Laurel Hill College.
A question and answer session followed each of the plays, with representatives from the PSNI, YMCA and NSPCC offering their professional advice to the students.
A number staff from local primary schools also took up the invitation to view the play with the intention of rolling a similar play out to primary school pupils later in the year.
“I am encouraged by the number of schools who have taken up the opportunity for their pupils to attend this important play and avail of the professional advice on offer from the police, YMCA and NSPCC,” said PCSP Chairman, Alderman Michael Henderson MBE.
“There are genuine concerns to be addressed regarding online safety and protecting our young people. I hope that everyone who saw the play and was involved in the discussions now have an increased awareness of the importance of protecting their identities and knowing who they are talking to when online.”
Superintendent Sean Wright, PSNI District Commander for Lisburn & Castlereagh commented: “Staying safe online is an essential part of growing up in this era of computer technology, so we were very pleased to be a part of this initiative to mark Safer Internet Day.
“It was great for my officers to meet with young people and hopefully address some of their concerns. I would encourage parents to take an active interest in helping to keep their young people safe online.
“If any young person, or parent has a concern about an online interaction they have had, please report it to police on 101.”
Jenny Magee from Lisburn YMCA commented: “It is encouraging to see so many schools and pupils engaging with the vital issue of online safety. By using a live drama production alongside the discussion and advice of professionals allows us to engage pupils on the issue in a unique way and ensure the important messages are heard by everyone.”
Colin Reid, Policy and Public Affairs Manager from NSPCC, added: “To children, their online world and online friendships are real life. While the internet has enormous educational and social opportunities there are also dangers attached. Unless children are taught about internet safety they could end up sharing too much about themselves online without realising the consequences.
“Keeping children safe online is an ever-growing challenge, and we are seeing more and younger people contacting our Childline service about problems they face on social media and the internet such as bullying or being exposed to inappropriate content.
“This play is an excellent community initiative, which highlights the risks clearly and isn’t afraid to cover the difficult topics of online abuse, grooming and child sexual exploitation. It is important for young people to understand these risks and we would also encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about their online world, so they know how to stay safe and how to get help if they need it.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about internet safety should make contact with either the PCSP (Tel: 028 9250 9279 or email firstname.lastname@example.org), PSNI (Tel: 101) or the NSPCC via Childline (Tel: 0800 1111 or click on www.childline.org.uk).