May 12th 2014
Parents in Northern Ireland are being urged to make sure they know enough about the internet and social media to keep their children safe online.
An advertising and awareness campaign was launched today on radio with billboards to follow next week in greater Belfast encouraging parents to get Switched On.
The campaign comes as the Police Service of Northern Ireland released provisional figures for the number of cyber enabled offences recorded in the past seven months.
Between 1 October 2013 and 25 April 2014, police have recorded 429 offences committed in full or in part through a computer, computer network or other computer-enabled device. The two largest offences were harassment (176 cases) and fraud (113 cases). There were 45 incidents of a sexual nature, 32 threats to kill and seven reports of blackmail. A breakdown of the victim profile shows 78 were aged between 10-19, 113 aged between 20-29 and 71 aged between 30-39. To date, 31 offenders have been detected and dealt with either by way of charge, summons, caution or discretionary disposal.
Research by communications regulator Ofcom last year indicated that around half of parents of 5-15-year-olds feel their child knows more about the internet than they do. The research suggests that parents need continuing support to build their own skills and confidence because of the fast pace of technological change and the ease with which children can embrace and explore new technology.
For example, do you know what social networking websites and apps your children are using? There are thousands to choose from, and the figure is increasing every day. You can read about some of the more common ones here.
To help parents stay up to date, the PSNI has teamed up with us here at Get Safe Online, Norton by Symantec, the Organised Crime Task Force and safety and life skills education centre RADAR.
The PSNI lead officer for cyber investigations in Organised Crime Branch, Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant, said: “The internet is a fantastic resource for learning, communicating and entertainment but, on the down side, it also provides opportunities for some individuals or groups to harm or abuse people, particularly young people. We are concerned about the number of younger victims in the provisional figures we have released. As one element of our response, we are starting this awareness campaign to make sure parents have the knowledge and skills to protect their children online." DCI Grant recommended: "The best place to access useful information is online at www.getsafeonline.org but our local officers will be going into schools and talking to 11-14-year-olds about safe use of the online environment. We will be providing basic material to encourage parents and children to become aware of the risks and do something about it together, what we call getting Switched On. At the same time, detectives will be investigating all reports of cyber enabled crime which are reported to police.”
Top level backing
The joint initiative has the backing of David Ford, Minister of Justice. “This is a really important initiative. As the internet becomes an ever increasing part of daily life it is vital that everyone knows how to keep themselves safe online. This is particularly important for young people. The Organised Crime Taskforce, which I chair, recognises this. It has recently introduced a sub-group to look specifically at cyber crime in Northern Ireland and works closely with the PSNI and others in this area." Mr Ford continued: “All involved in this area know how difficult it can be to keep up with the online activity of a younger generation. I fully support this initiative which will help to educate parents and encourage families to discuss the issue together.”
Tony Neate, Chief Executive of Get Safe Online said: “Young people now are growing up with technology at their fingertips, and using the internet for homework, socialising or gaming is second nature. But, much like the rules of the road to keep safe, there are some very simple guidelines kids must learn and observe to protect themselves online. Educating young people is key to tackling cybercrime in Northern Ireland, but it is difficult for parents to teach their kids about online safety if they are not confident in their own skills. We are pleased to be teaming up with the Police Service of Northern Ireland to help parents get ‘Switched On’ and to stay up to date with the latest technological changes.”