Arming pupils against web predators: Police tips for Hull schools over paedophile grooming cases
DETECTIVES plan to visit schools in Hull to stop pupils falling victim to paedophiles on Facebook and other social networking websites.
Humberside Police have produced a "learning package" including tips and advice on how to stop children being groomed.
It follows a number of recent high-profile grooming cases, which have shocked parents and education leaders.
Headteachers will be offered visits from detectives to talk to pupils about the dangers posed by the internet.
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Detective Constable Adrian Adamson said the force does not wish to scaremonger but stressed the importance of taking practical steps to protect children from those wishing to exploit the freedom of the internet.
He said: "We have prepared a package for schools about staying safe. We are looking at going into schools soon."
Before Christmas, the Mail highlighted the issue of online grooming with an investigation that culminated in the arrest of one man, who is due to answer police bail next month.
Over several weeks, the Mail, posing online as a 14-year-old schoolgirl, was contacted by a number of men, some middle-aged and with children, who bombarded the fake account with obscene comments.
DC Adamson said the rise of social networking sites now makes it much easier for paedophiles to exploit children.
He said: "You have Facebook, Twitter and various other websites, which criminals will exploit.
"The package will be aimed at 12 to 14-year-olds – the group most at risk."
Detectives are expected to advise young people on what information they should keep private, such as their mobile phone numbers, addresses and routines.
The move has been widely welcomed by the city's education leaders.
Stewart Edgell, headteacher of Endeavour High School in Beverley Road, applauded the detectives' work.
He said: "We would absolutely support this project.
"We already run some web safety activities for pupils but a visit from police to reinforce the message would be well received.
"It would be extremely helpful if officers could show students real-life examples of how a seemingly innocent comment on Facebook could be more sinister.
Mr Edgell, a father of two teenage daughters, said online grooming is a concern for all schools, as well as parents.
He said: "I have attended courses run by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and have seen how paedophiles will often share information and methods to trick young people with other like-minded people."
Hull North MP Diana Johnson, who is also Labour's Shadow Crime and Security Minister, is calling for greater education about the pitfalls of the internet.
She said: "This is a positive move by Humberside Police but we need to see this sort of relationships education on the national curriculum in schools.
"Along with information on the dangers of alcohol and drugs, raising awareness about the dangers posed by predatory paedophiles on the social media and elsewhere is essential for young people in this day and age.
"I have been campaigning for this in Parliament but so far the Government has not been supportive."
Last November, Anlaby Acre Heads Primary School sent a letter to parents stressing the potential dangers of websites including Facebook and Twitter.
Families were advised not to post holiday snaps of their children on social media sites amid fears the pictures could become "useful" material for paedophiles.