Headteachers unite to warn of online dangers

School internet safety
School internet safety
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Kenilworth headteachers have united in a plea for parents to help put a stop to the online dangers being faced by children every day.

The town’s seven primary school heads have highlighted dangers of talking to strangers online or sharing unwittingly sexualised videos, as they call for a change.

Gaming, interaction and even friendships are all in the spotlight as Thorns, Park Hill, St Nicholas, All Saints, Burton Green, St Augustine’s and Priorsfield schools raise worries over the blurred lines of online reality for youngsters.

The group has reported children as young as nine-years-old giving away personal information to strangers.

A 12-year-old in the town is also reported to have given their mobile phone number to a 40-year-old man so the pair could talk about tactics for an online game.

A statement from the head teachers said: “Clearly this is not safe. Children know not to do that but within the setting of the game and a perceived friendship, it still happened.”

They also report children repeating threatening behaviour and language from computer games, and even uploading overly-sexualised videos and images of themselves which are spread across the internet.

A statement from the group said: “Children are seeing violent and sexually explicit images, often by accident, often not.

“Computer games they play, well beyond what is recommended for their maturity levels, provide them with a confused sense of reality when they are forming their understanding of the world. Practically, children are experts in their use of technology, mostly surpassing what their parents are capable of – and their interest levels. However children, particularly in primary school, are incredibly naïve.”

As headteachers at the primary schools prepare to meet next month, the message has spread in hope of getting parents on board to bring about stricter regulations and more understanding by young people.

But as well as safety online, the teachers want to improve relationships in the classroom - saying that children often play out games inspired by aggressive or bad language-driven computer games.

They have also seen a rise in unkind comments being sent around school groups via text where it is “far easier” for situations to get out of control.

It is hoped that parents will pay close attention to what their children are doing online, and help advice on how to stay safe and responsible.

The headteachers continued by saying: “Children are capable of interacting with technology in advanced ways.

“But it doesn’t mean they are ready for a world where they can’t see who they are communicating with and can’t envisage the ramifications of their actions.

“When children are young they are given daily guidance about safety, but they are given nowhere near the same guidance for online safety.”