Concern over the child safety online remains a hot topic. According to Government child protection agency, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), around one in four children who make friends online then go and meet them offline. Tim Hoang reports on a new initiative.
Hector and Friends
Although, obviously, this does not mean that they are all at risk of getting abused, the CEOP has launched a series of animated films warning children about the dangers of the Web. Aimed at children under the age of five, Hector's World features Hector the Dolphin and his friends, PC Jim the sea-horse and Ranjeet the crab. The five animated episodes explore issues such as giving out information and interacting with adults on the Web.
"We know that children are now using the Internet at an increasingly young age," said Jim Gamble, CEOP chief executive.
"Recent research, coupled with feedback from our own youth panel and our work with parents, show that children are exploring the online world from as young as five years old.
"Teachers have asked us for this material because it is never too early to start giving children 'safety first' messages: in the same way that we teach small children to cross the road safely, there is a need to ensure that young children learn good habits for a future life online."
Already proving a success in New Zealand, the initiative was launched at St Vincent De Paul RC Primary School in Victoria, London. Hector's World is part of the CEOP's Thinkuknow educational campaign which has already warned 1.7 million eight to 16 year olds about the dangers of the Web.
The NSPCC has welcomed the programme. Speaking to New Media Knowledge, Zoe Hilton, policy advisor at the NSPCC highlighted how the dangers of the Web are very real.
"Any initiative which helps to highlight the dangers children face online is a positive step in the right direction. CEOP has used imagination to devise this programme which we hope will be a success," said Hilton.
"The Internet has created a whole new world where children are free to come and go as they please. They hang out and make friends, just as they do in the playground at school. We need to wake up to the fact that threats to children online are no less real than in the wider world.
"For some time we have been calling on companies to help by pre-installing software which is set to a high level of security. Parents can also help by educating their children about how to stay safe online. We cannot always protect children from seeing abusive, pornographic or violent material. Nor can we always keep them safe from individuals who are intent on causing harm, but this is a basic safeguard that the industry should be taking."