31 January 2018: Keeping Young People Safer Online

31 January 2018

Yesterday I jointly hosted a Cyber Protect conference that focused on how we keep our young people safer while enabling them to make the most of technology and the digital world.

While event focused on safety a theme that also ran throughout the day was the value of technology, and we must not lose sight of the wonder the brilliance, the advantage, the energy that comes from it.

It is why our young people get so engaged and excited and drawn in and it is why industry delivers so well for us.

We all know that cyber is important, but how many of us know the details? Are we changing our skills and our learning to enable us to protect people appropriately?

Cyber is big business for those who wish us harm – the crimes are huge. I was in London on Monday hearing from the people who have to look at all the horrors of these crimes. The awful things that are done to young people, and not just young people, is intolerable and there is rightly a public sense that more needs to be done.

Focus is necessary, I believe we have that, the Prime Minister spoke at Davos about that and the need for industry to do really good things.

Since I was elected I have certainly had a focus on cyber and this is one of the areas where as Police and Crime Commissioner I can add value in terms of helping to keep us safer– whether it is providing a small grant to enable neighbourhood watch to issue RFID wallets to prevent credit cards from being cloned, identifying emerging trends in cyber behaviours and creating impactful campaigns as a result or running initiatives that seek to educate young people about the dangers different online platforms pose.

While cyber safety is important for all ages, it is really important to protect the young.

Young people have told me, through my Youth Commission, that online safety is a major concern for them – it came out as the second biggest concern (after mental health).

Everyday we hear a different story about how young people are seeking validation online, how their perceived social status relies on ‘likes’.

The devastating impacts that cyberbullying can have, the humiliation and trauma caused by sexting, revenge porn and sextortion.

Our children are playing their lives out online for all to see and this is having an impact on their mental health and safety.

This is why it is important that we seek to understand the pressures they are under so we can provide the right advice, and the right support that will help them to avoid being exploited or put at risk and it needs to be in the right voice so they will listen.

This why my Youth Commission has been piloting a Cyber Ambassador scheme that seeks to embed online safety advice early on and to continue that throughout the school journey. The approach taken is peer led to ensure that it works with, and for, the young people. I am looking forward to meeting with some of the Cyber Ambassadors next week on Internet Safety Day and finding out how the scheme has worked in their schools.