As reported in the John O’Groat Journal
SCHOOL pupils from across the far north learned about the dangers of online stalking as part of an internet safety programme that has been rolled out across the Highlands. Over 300 primary seven pupils took part in Caithness Safe Highlander which was held at Wick Assembly Rooms as part of a community safety and crime prevention project.IT firm Fujitsu provided an internet safety set to highlight some of the dangers of providing personal information online. The exercise, called Becky’s Room, gave pupils a short amount of time to discover as much personal information about the fictional Becky as they could from looking around her mock bedroom. The pupils were then shown Becky’s online social network profile which provided information from her personal posts and photos which were left open for public viewing.
The pupils were asked to think about the risks Becky could encounter as a result of this information being widely available. Alastair Millar, Fujitsu service manager on the Highland Council project, said during previous internet safety sessions Fujitsu staff discovered over 90 per cent of 2500 primary seven pupils taking part had at least one social network account, while some had several.
They also found that competitions among friends to accumulate the most online “friends” meant they were giving vital access and information to many people they did not know.
“The pupils in Caithness demonstrated a similar degree of experience of social networking sites and were able to give examples of incidents that had occurred with friends and family,” he said.
“These sites can be a useful way for young people to communicate with their friends and others but it is important they are aware of the potential dangers so they can be used safely.”
The advice is part of Fujitsu’s community benefits programme which is an offshoot of its £66 million programme to upgrade and manage Highland Council’s corporate and schools computer networks. The programme helps tackle challenging issues of community safety and crime prevention by making young people more aware of personal safety, helping them to avoid becoming victims of crime and understand how to react to emergency situations.
Wick councillor Gail Ross, who opened the event, recognised the importance of teaching young children how to use the internet safely. “As a mother, I feel very strongly about keeping our youngsters safe. With the use of social media on the rise and the access children have to the internet, it is particularly important to ensure they have the knowledge about the possible dangers to be found online.”