As part of supporting schools with safety messages, the VVU recently supported Thurrock Community Safety Partnership and Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children’s Partnership to fund a series of roadshows for Y5 and Y6 school children on how to stay safe online.
In three days more than 2,000 Thurrock school children took part in an interactive presentation where pupils were given online safety advice by The 2 Johns, Thurrock Community Policing Team and the local youth offending team.
The day the VVU went to observe, pupils streamed into the Civic Theatre to the tunes of Happy and Dance Monkey – there was lots of singing and clapping – more of a festival / pantomime vibe than a talk about keeping safe online!
The importance of sharing when upset
The 2 Johns kicked off proceedings with an interactive quiz which asked the audience to identify various YouTubers and You Tube channels. With very few exceptions every child in the audience seemed to know every single picture plus various facts and figures about each person. The adults in the audience looked on rather blankly! An interesting insight which shows how little we may be aware what our children are viewing online.
The audience were then asked if they ever got upset about things they saw online, or subjects discussed online, again the majority of the children said they had. It was at this point The 2 Johns stressed the importance of making sure they tell an adult – a parent, a teacher if they had seen something that had upset them. They got them to look around the room and said look at how many other people have been upset so if you are sad, other people will be too so it’s good to talk.
The 2 Johns then went on to talk about sharing images online and how sadly the number of rude pictures of children has increased dramatically over Covid. Pictures of children aged 7 to 10 went up by 235% and images of children aged 11 to 13 by 167%. Ninety nine percent of these images are girls. And 91% of the images are of children aged 7 to 13.
Online challenges and chat rooms
Online challenges and dares were covered – again stressing the absolute importance of not doing them and certainly never alone. The conversation then turned to gaming – which was met with a huge cheer from the audience! A huge proportion of the children said they gamed regularly. The comparison was made by The 2 Johns of how the audience meet their school friends online as their parents would have met their school friends at the park. It highlighted to the adults in the audience how there isn’t anything wrong with this world, it’s just different to the world we grew up in and we have to accept that and try to understand it.
The school children were asked about chat rooms and in-App ways of communicating. The 2 John’s stressing the importance of not trusting people you meet online, not communicating out of the game, not sharing phone numbers or social media details and never sending images to anyone. The emphasis on always telling someone – a trusted adult – if something was bothering you was again stressed, alongside the fact that even if you are in trouble with your parents for breaking an online rule, it’s nothing compared to what could happen.
The children were told a couple of true stories about children who had shared photos or had failed to set their privacy settings. You could tell the audience were shocked but also the majority of them clearly thought themselves too clued up to fall for anything similar! But when The 2 Johns told everyone to check their privacy settings for SnapChat there was a lot of reaction which showed these settings had been overlooked.
The day had opened with the words: “At the end of today, we want to get you thinking.” I think the day did exactly that and I think the children thought so too.