Parents of Internet chat victim call on
Government to make Net safer


New Web Site Launched to Advise on
Internet Chat Danger to Children


Tuesday 10 July - For Immediate Release


NEW PILOT INTERNET SAFETY PROGRAMME IS LAUNCHED


Welcomed by Minister and Coronation Street stars

Netbenefit?, a new pilot programme to teach school children and their parents about using the Internet safely, was launched today at Hathershaw Technology College in Oldham by Childnet International, the online children's charity. The pilot includes a drama about Internet chat, and classroom sessions on smart and safe behaviour online. Pupils are inviting their parents to a special evening seminar on Internet safety.

Beverley Hughes MP, the Home Office Minister who chairs the Internet Task Force on Child Protection, visited the launch of the pilot today and said "The Internet has opened up a new world for children - cyberspace can be educative, informative, and most of all, fun. But, as Childnet and the Coronation Street storyline highlight, we must all be alive to the potential for criminals to abuse the trust that children place in this new world."

"I have been very impressed with the Netbenefit? programme with its emphasis on educating parents and children alike on the massive benefits that the Internet brings, as well as the simple steps they can take to make sure that they can surf in safety."

The pilot coincides with the developing storyline in Coronation Street in which Sarah Lou Platt, played by Tina O'Brien, has been contacted by "Gary" in a chat room and wants to meet him. Tina also came to the college today, along with Bruno Langley who plays Todd Grimshaw, and told the pupils "Sarah's heart is ruling her head - she really has no idea who the guy is who has contacted her. You have got to be very careful online."

Childnet developed the Netbenefit? programme from a series of training seminars it has run in different countries. It also builds on Childnet's experience of running the chatdanger.com web site which was set up in October 2000 to explain to parents and teenage chat users the issues in using chat on the Internet. Chatdanger.com was put together with the support of the family of the victim in the Patrick Green case - the first conviction in the UK of an adult having sex with a child arising from chat room contact.

Nigel Williams, Director of Childnet International, who is a member of the Home Office Task Force said, "We are committed to helping parents and younger internet users understand how they can use the Internet safely. There is no doubt that there is a net benefit in using the Internet but we all need to be careful"

For the pilot Childnet is working in partnership with two local education authorities - Oldham and Newport in South Wales. Chris Berry, Director of Education and Leisure Services for Oldham commented, "Internet use in our schools is expanding rapidly. Here in Oldham pupil safety is our paramount concern so we are pleased to have this opportunity through the Netbenefit? programme to look as how we can most effectively get important Internet safety messages across to pupils and parents."

The week of activities in Oldham and in Newport includes individual days in each of three schools targeting the 9-13 age group. Pupils will enjoy a specially commissioned drama presentation and other activities in citizenship and ICT lessons. There is a workshop with teachers and an evening seminar for parents. The weeks also include special sessions for all ICT teachers and for governors, librarians and other interested parties.

Childnet will be submitting the result of the pilot to the Home Office Task Force and would like to expand the programme nationally from the autumn, if funding becomes available. The pilots have been financed with Childnet's own resources and support from the local education authorities and computer companies Capita, Holdens, and Microsoft. Nigel Williams said "We believe partnership with national and local government, the internet industry and the media is vital to get across the message of Netbenefit? - be smart, safe and positive online."


Contacts:

Childnet International - 020 7639 6967
Nigel Williams : Nigel@childnet-int.org mobile 07711 702906
Vaughn Armstrong: Vaughn@childnet-int.org mobile 07785 974146

Home Office
Tim Watkinson 020 7273 4513
Newsdesk 020 7273 4545

Coronation Street
Alison Sinclair, office 0161 827 2541; mobile 07768 261530


Notes

1. Childnet International is a non-profit organisation established in 1995 with the mission to help make the Internet a great place for children. Childnet operates internationally from its base in London. More information can be found on the following web sites
www.childnet-int.org
www.childnet-int.org/netbenefit
www.chatdanger.com

2. Details about the current Coronation Street story involving Sarah can be found at http://www.coronationstreet.co.uk/coronationstreet/40_index.html under 'Street Stories'. Links to Childnet can be found under 'Helplines'.

3. The Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet was formed in April 2001. It is a unique partnership of Government, industry, police and charitable organisations, working together to tackle the danger posed to children by online paedophiles.

The Task Force is working to make the UK the best and safest place in the world for children to use the Internet; and will make recommendations on a wide range of issues including:

  • scrutiny of the criminal law as it applies to the Internet and how it could be strengthened if necessary, particularly to tackle the issue of 'online grooming';
  • child protection measures to help young Internet users to surf the Net in safety, such as kite-mark schemes and moderated chat; and a public awareness campaign, educating parents and children alike on how to 'surf in safety';
  • law enforcement issues to ensure that the police have the knowledge and ever-increasing expertise to tackle cybercriminals, and to enhance co-operation between industry and police, including the new National High Tech Crime Unit in criminal investigations.

ENDS




PARENTS OF INTERNET CHAT VICTIM CALL ON
GOVERNMENT TO MAKE NET SAFER
Monday 12th February 2001

The parents of the 13 year old girl who was sexually abused by Patrick Green (33) following contact in an Internet chat room, today met with Home Office Minister, Charles Clarke MP to press for further action to ensure better internet safety and more effective police response to incidents like this.

The family's MP, Paul Burstow, who arranged the meeting said. "The Internet offers great opportunities for young people, but it also exposes them to the risk of exploitation. The family wanted to demonstrate to the Minister how easy it is for paedophiles to target young people through Internet chat rooms, and lure them to meet offline."

The meeting was also attended by Nigel Williams, the Director of Childnet International, the children's Internet charity which set up www.chatdanger.com last October following the sentencing of Green to 5 years in prison. The site gives details of the family's story and provides safety advice to chat users and parents.

Paul Burstow added "The Home Office figures demonstrate that currently the Police are ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime. I join the parents in welcoming the new National Hi-Tech Crime Squad. I was pleased that the Minister announced for the first time at the meeting that the combating of paedophile activity on the Internet would be a top priority of the new squad." The Minister was told that this new squad must be involved at the very early stages of cases like Patrick Green to ensure effective technical investigation and evidence collection. Internet cases often involved victims and perpetrators spread across the country (and indeed internationally) and required strong coordination and speed of response.

The Minister was also challenged about the adequacy of current legislation to deal with the online grooming of children for sexual purposes. Mr Clarke agreed to review this point, and whether the legal powers are in place to arrest and charge individuals before they reach the stage of committing sexual offences offline.

The Government was also urged to do much more to actively press Internet companies to have safety measures in place to help prevent children being lured through chat rooms. The Minister said he would meet with the Internet Industry to discuss the measures they could take to combat paedophile activity in chat rooms and offer parents chat free services.

Childnet presented evidence that the Green case was not isolated. Since the Chatdanger site had been launched some 38 urgent requests for help had been received among the hundreds of e-mails from chat users and parents. A number of these had involved immediate referral to the police and child welfare agencies. Nigel Williams said "We admire the bravery of the parents in this case in reliving painful memories to call for Government action. We believe only by the government, law enforcement and the Internet industry giving this issue a very high priority will children be safer".

He added that it was sad that the Internet which could be used so positively by children to create web sites, discover information and connect with other children across the globe, should be tarnished by the actions of those determined to exploit children like Patrick Green and those sentenced in the Wonderland child pornography case.

Chat users and parents who are concerned about how they can use Internet chat in a safer way can visit www.chatdanger.com for information to help them.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Nigel Williams (Childnet ) Office 020 7639 6967 Mobile 0411 702 906,
Paul Burstow MP Office 020 7219 1196 Mobile 041 041 0991

Childnet is a non-profit organisation based in the UK but working around the world to help make the internet a great (and safe) place for children. See www.childnet-int.org for further information. Childnet has undertaken research on safer use of the Internet for the European Commission (www.netaware.org) and runs an international awards program (sponsored by Cable and Wireless plc) to highlight innovative use of the Internet by children and those who work with them. (www.childnet-int.org/awards)

PRESS RELEASE                
New Web Site Launched to Advise on
Internet Chat Danger to Children

Parents of 13 year old victim call for action



Childnet International , the Children's Internet charity, announced today the launch of www.chatdanger.com, a new web site to respond to the growing dangers for children using Internet Chat Rooms. The site is launched following the sentencing today of Patrick Green (33), the first time in the UK a perpetrator has been found guilty of sexual offences arising from contact with a young teenager whom he met in an Internet Chat Room.

In June 2000 John and Julie Smith (not their real names) contacted Childnet to ask for help and advice in dealing with a personal family tragedy. Appalled that their 13 year old child had been contacted and sexually abused by an adult who met her through a teenage Internet Chat Room, they asked Childnet for help in alerting other parents to the dangers of chat and ensure that those companies who run chat services provide clearer safety advice for children.

After the perpetrator had been sentenced today, Childnet launched www.chatdanger.com with the support of the family, in the words of the parents "to ensure that some good comes from this tragic episode by raising awareness of the potential dangers of the Internet, particularly Chat Rooms."

The web site includes an account of what happened to the family and special advice for both teenage chat users and parents. The site also includes a simple animated banner based on the mnemonic CHAT.

C CAREFUL - ppl online may not b who they say they r
H HANG ON TO YOR PERSONAL INFORMATION - Never give out yor e-mail or home address, phone number, or where u go 2 school
A ARRANGING TO MEET IS DANGEROUS - Never meet some 1 offline unless u are sure who they r, and then only if u r with a parent and meet in a public place.
T TELL YOUR FRIENDS or an adult if u come across something that makes you feel uncomfortable.


Childnet has also written to some of the major companies offering Internet Chat in the UK to suggest they provide more safety advice and will now be urging them to link to the site.

Childnet Director, Nigel Williams said, "We admire the bravery of the Smith family in telling their story. We hope that www.chatdanger.com helps young people and parents better understand what they can do to stay safe." Mr Williams also supported the parents in calling for other practical initiatives to deal with chat. Childnet's recommendations include a specialist national computer crime unit with protecting children at the top of its priorities; a review of legislation dealing with online crimes against children; better training for the police; schools to ensure there is no access to unmoderated chat; the provision of chat free internet access; better moderation of Chat Rooms and much more effort to help parents become net literate and understand these issues. These recommendations are set out in full on the chatdanger web site.

- Ends -

BACKGROUND ON CHILDNET
Childnet International is a charity registered in the UK (No 1080173) which works to "help make the Internet a great place for Children". Established in 1995 the organisation works around the world in four key areas of Access, Awareness, Protection and Policy. Full details of Childnet's activities, principles for action and staff can be seen at www.childnet-int.org Childnet is a strong advocate of the benefits of the internet for children - illustrated by the winners of its annual awards programme, sponsored by Cable and Wireless plc, including a dyslexic boy from India, a teenager with a music site from the UK, and a street children's web site from Central America.

CONTACT
Nigel Williams - Director
Telephone: 0207 639 6967
mobile 0411 702906
E-mail Nigel@childnet-int.org
or
Stephen Carrick-Davies -Development Manager
Telephone 0207 639 6967
mobile 0771 245 1859
E-mail Stephen@childnet-int.org