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Do you know what your children are looking at online?

The online world is a vital space for children at the moment, as they keep up with school work and maintain relationships with their friends.  But parents in Cornwall are being warned about the dangers for children spending more time on line.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Safeguarding Children Partnership Board are concerned if children are spending more time online unsupervised, such as in their bedrooms or when parents are trying to work from home, there is the chance that young people could fall victim to exploitation and bullying.

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Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Partnership Board, John Clements, said: “Over the last five years we have seen a steady increase in online child abuse and exploitation and we are concerned that during lockdown, this will continue to rise.

 “I am keen to stress that the internet is not all bad; in fact, over the last few weeks it has become a brilliant resource for keeping up with school work, friends and family. However, you do need to be careful when it comes to sharing personal information and pictures.”

This is part of a wider safeguarding campaign which is marked with the launch of a new website for the partnership board to help protect children and young people in Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly.

There are hints and tips about staying safe online on the new website, along with a host of other useful information designed especially for children and their families.

John continued: “Children and young people spend a lot of their time online, even more so following the Covid-19 lockdown and it is essential that parents know what they are doing, the sites they’re visiting and who they are talking to.

“Whilst it can be a positive place to keep in touch with friends and families, criminals could use it to groom and exploit them. Online child exploitation can include live streaming, coercion and blackmail of children for sexual or criminal purposes.”

The government, the department for education and leading UK charities have also warned of the dangers of the internet at this time and have issued consistent guidance.  These include: think before you post, don’t share personal information, being aware of scams, thinking about who you are talking too online, keeping your device secure, never giving out your passwords and covering your webcam when you are not using it.

John concluded: “We don’t want to alarm parents or carers and there is no need to lock away your children’s screen or to scare them with stories of bad people, but by taking a few simple steps you can help protect them online.”

The safeguarding board is a partnership between Cornwall Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, NHS Kernow and the Council of the Isles of Scilly and is in place to protect children in Cornwall from harm.

For more information please go to the Safeguarding Partnership Website or if you have an urgent safeguarding concern you can contact the MARU on: 0300 1231 116