Kent County Council and Kent Police are increasingly receiving reports of children and young people accessing inappropriate content and being contacted by unknown individuals using apps and websites which enable video chat. There has also recently been national research published by the Internet Watch Foundation which identified that children and young people as young as seven were being exploited online on webcams and chat sites. This local and national concern serves as an opportunity for us to remind all children and young people about being safe online and work together in partnership with parents/carers.
Websites and apps such as Skype, Facetime, Oovoo and more allow, users to communicate on webcam with others and can offer amazing opportunities and experiences for children and adults alike when used safely with friends and family members. However speaking on webcam or video chat via apps on tablets and Smartphone’s with sometimes unknown and unidentifiable people can leave children and young people vulnerable to online sexual exploitation including grooming and sexual abuse.
Kent Police and Kent County Council are aware that this behaviour is increasingly taking place on video chat apps accessed on tablets and smartphones. Some of these apps have little/no regulation, child safeguarding approaches or mechanisms for law enforcement to use to trace and identify offenders and therefore a shared approach between children, parents/carers, professionals and schools/setting regarding education and awareness about safe online behaviour is essential.
Kent County Council’s eSafety Strategy Group and KSCB Education Sub Group have created a template letter (DOC, 50.5 KB) for schools and settings to adapt and share to help raise awareness of these issues with parents/carers as well as providing useful links and advice.
Other useful links to share with parents/carers via websites/newsletters etc. are:
- www.thinkuknow.co.uk – Visit the “Parent/Carer” section and use the “Click CEOP” button to seek advice and report online abuse
- www.childnet.com – Visit the ‘Parent/Carers section for information and advice
- http://www.childnet.com/ufiles/Video-chat-and-webcams1.pdf – Childnet’s Video Chat and WebCam advice sheet for young people
- http://www.childnet.com/ufiles/video-chat-and-webcams-teachers.pdf – Childnet’s Video Chat and WebCam advice sheet for teachers
- www.getsafeonline.org – Up-to-date security advice e.g. passwords and hacking
- www.internetmatters.org – Information about online safety for parents from BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin
- www.nspcc.org.uk/onlinesafety – NSPCC’s Share Aware campaign provides information for parents about online safety.
- www.net-aware.org.uk – NSPCC Guide for parents/carers about popular social networking apps
- www.saferinternet.org.uk – Parents guides to safety tools on popular devices and signposts report mechanisms for commonly used websites.
- www.kent.police.uk/internetsafety – Guidance from Kent Police
Kent Schools can contact the e-Safety Officer or Education Safeguarding Team for more advice and guidance (including other template letters) relating to online safety issues.
With thanks to CEOP for content within the template letter.