PUPILS at Whiteabbey Primary School were among hundreds of children across Northern Ireland who took part in this year’s Safer Internet Day.
Local PSNI officers visited the school on Tuesday, February 5, along with representatives from Microsoft, to deliver crucial presentations about how children can keep themselves safe and secure online.
Newtownabbey Schools Liaison Officer, Constable Brian Herron said: “In previous years most internet access for young people was limited to the home or school, however these days with the huge expansion in the availability and affordability of mobile internet enabled devices such as tablets and smartphones this is not the case.
“Children are able to go online practically anywhere and they are becoming web-savvy at a much earlier age.
“As a result many children unwittingly find themselves in risky situations when online whether by sharing inappropriate images of themselves or being contacted by a stranger. Others engage in potentially criminal activities and online bullying not realising the impact it can have on their ‘real’ lives.”
Stressing the importance of educating children and getting them to think safety first online, he added: “We need to give them the right tools and information to enjoy the many wonderful benefits of the internet like social networking or online gaming whilst avoiding the potential risks.
“We’re also encouraging parents to take an active role. Find out what children are up to online and make sure you talk to them about how they use their social networks or any other accounts. Parents can also consider setting up parental controls on devices connected to the internet to restrict the kinds of sites children can access.”
Barry McClean, regional manager for Microsoft Northern Ireland, added: “We are absolutely delighted to take part in Safer Internet Day and our employee volunteering activities underlines Microsoft’s commitment to creating awareness on how children and families can safely enjoy their internet experience.
“I’d like to thank the PSNI for partnering with us for our campaign in Northern Ireland.
“Today’s web generation is increasingly communicating and sharing personal information via the internet and through the growing number of social networking sites.
“The increased use of social media has created a world of sophisticated web users, but our children and young people still need guidance on what personal information can be safely shared online.
“This is why Safer Internet Day has been established to ensure that children and families can explore the best of the internet and are protected from the worst.”
Further advice for both children and parents can be obtained by logging on to www.psni.police.uk/directory and clicking on the icon for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.