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Stranger danger in the bedroom

‘Chat Wise, Street Wise’

‘Chat Wise, Street Wise’ is the name of a report just issued by the Home Office’s Internet Crime Room. It contains a number of warnings for parents about the dangers of letting children access the net unsupervised – which is so often the case these days when so many children - some five million, according to the report - have a pc in their bedroom.

This is a warning for parents about the dangers of letting children access the net unsupervised – which is so often the case these days when so many children - some five million, according to the report - have a pc in their bedroom.

The main danger comes from ‘chat rooms’ where children can engage in real time exchanges with other users in the ‘room’ via typed messages. The people they ‘talk’ to can, of course, assume any identity. A child may be under the impression he or she is talking to another child, when in reality that other person could easily be a paedophile deliberately looking to win the confidence of youngsters and to obtain more information such as addresses, phone numbers and so on with a view to getting closer to them – even to meet with them in person.

There have been several cases reported in the press recently where supposed contemporaries whom children have met on the net, have turned out to be perverts in their 40s and 50s. Research recently carried out in the States points to web abuse on a frightening scale, indicating that a fifth of all juvenile chatroom users have been the victims of inappropriate sexual overtures in this way.

The Home Office report also alerts parents to the fact that paedophiles are also targeting school e-mail addresses. However, it has been criticised for not going far enough in calling for changes to be made in the internet industry which does not currently regulate against the use of bad language or explicit sexual content. Until such time, parents are being advised to bring themselves up to speed on modern technology, and to bring pcs out of their children’s bedrooms into communal family areas.

Television presenter, Carol Vorderman is currently spearheading a campaign designed to see ‘real action’ against the on-line abuse of children and how to eradicate it. Having worked with closely police and even masqueraded as a 12-year old on the net *when she experienced a virtual approach from a paedophile), Vorderman is in no doubt what parents are up against, saying, ‘I am a mum and I want to know how to protect my children. My daughter is eight and still believes in the tooth fairy. I don’t want her innocence taken away.’ 

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