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AM leads debate on safety of children online

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am leads debateREBECCA EVANS AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, has led a debate at the National Assembly for Wales on the safety of children online.

Mrs Evans brought forward the debate at the Senedd to explore the dangers facing children online following a series of tragic and high profile cases tied to internet use, and the publication of several pieces of research highlighting the challenges facing children online.

Mrs Evans told the Assembly that although the role of internet service providers, search engines and social networks in protecting children lay beyond the scope of the Assembly, “to shrug our shoulders and say that the challenges are too big, or that it is just not our job would absolve us from our responsibility to use every opportunity that we do have in Wales to equip children, parents, teachers, youth workers and so on with resilience, knowledge and support, so that they are best able to deal with the challenges faced by children online day in, day out.”

Mrs Evans explored peer-to-peer issues such as bullying and exploitation, as well as stranger dangers including online grooming, and easy access to explicit adult material which may be extreme or violent in its content.

Mrs Evans said: “Most children now have a phone with internet access and nine out of 10 of them say that there are no parental restrictions on its use. For most children, their virtual lives are synonymous with their real lives, and what happens online affects them offline.”

Tackling cyberbullying

After the recent publication of a Funky Dragon survey which found that over a third of 11 to 17-year-olds in Wales who had been bullied had suffered from cyberbullying, Mrs Evans asked the Welsh Government how it was addressing the unique challenges posed by bullying online.

Mrs Evans said: “Online bullying is relentless; it is 24/7 and it follows bullied children everywhere that they go. They carry it around on the phone in their pocket.”

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler has also echoed these concerns. Responding to the debate, the Deputy Minister announced that “As part of the 2013 Anti–bullying Week, from 18 to 22 November, the Welsh Government will be launching a campaign to raise awareness of cyberbullying and to highlight where to go for help.”

A force for good too

Mrs Evans ended her contribution by being clear that she “did not want to give the impression that cyberspace is a wholly dangerous and nightmarish place to be avoided at all costs.”

“In fact,” she said, “it is quite the opposite. Access to the internet can be incredibly enriching. Children can talk to other children thousands of miles away and develop global citizenship and a sense of responsibility to other people on the other side of the planet. They can have fun and stay in touch with friends, and it is a wonderful learning environment and research tool, a gateway to almost limitless knowledge, and a forum to develop skills and ideas.

“By educating children and those who protect and support them about the safe use of the internet, including recognising danger and the importance of privacy settings and content blocks, for example, we can make the internet a much safer place for them. By helping children to put what they see and experience online into context offline we can build their resilience. There is a huge amount of very good work already taking place in Wales by parents, schools, the third sector, police and others, and I would ask the Government to explore how we could bring all of this good practice together to make the internet a safer place for children.”

Mrs Evans looks forward to meeting with the Deputy Minister in order to further discuss actions to ensure the safety of children online.

Let’s talk about sexts

Modern trends such as sexting – the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photographs, or video content, primarily between mobile phones – are causing children’s charities in Wales concern.

Speaking in the debate, Mrs Evans said: “NSPCC Cymru and ChildLine have warned that many children are frequently taking big risks when making and sending sexual texts, photos and videos of themselves. They found that sexting is considered a normal, everyday activity among young people as young as 13 years old, with around a quarter of them having made photographs or videos to send on to others. Barnardo’s Cymru has also identified what it calls peer-based exploitation as an increasing trend.”

Mrs Evans warned that once the image has been sent on, it is out of the young person’s control and told the Assembly that the Internet Watch Foundation has reported that images are regularly shared around school, uploaded to social networks and sometimes find their way on to paedophile websites. In just 40 hours, an IWF analyst found more than 12,000 images of teens that were originally sent as texts on 70 paedophile websites.

Mrs Evans said that after seeing calls about sexting rise by 28% last year, ChildLine has developed a “fantastic app” called Zipit, which provides witty and safe comebacks that children and young people can use to reply when faced with requests for explicit photos. She asked the Deputy Minister for Skills, Ken Skates AM, to consider how the Welsh Government could promote the app and similar resources.

Responding to the debate, the Deputy Minister asked Mrs Evans to meet with him and his officials to discuss in further detail how sexting can best be addressed.

Parents have a big role to play

Mrs Evans told the Assembly that parents were “probably the most important defence that children have against the darkest elements of the internet,” but added that they sometimes needed support to be able to fulfil that role.

She referred to research by web safety organisation Knowthenet which suggested that some parents may be failing to protect their children in cyberspace, simply because they do not understand the net speak that peppers online exchanges.

Mrs Evans said: “For many parents, their understanding of everyday slang starts and ends with ‘LOL’, but they can be sure that their children’s vocabulary is much wider. A Knowthenet survey of 1,000 parents found that the least understood term was ‘LMIRL’, which means ‘Let’s meet in real life’. Also among the least-known acronyms were ‘ASL’, which means age, sex, location and ‘POS’, parents over shoulder.”

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Johnston: Police appeal after boy on scooter injured in collision

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POLICE are appealing for witnesses after a collision in Johnston, near Haverfordwest, on Wednesday (Aug 5).

A boy on a scooter sustained minor injuries during the collision, which took place at around 4.20pm.

A red 4×4 is also believed to have been involved.

Anyone who was in the area of the St Peters Road pelican crossing, or nearby Langford road, and either witnessed the collision or who has CCTV that covers this area is asked to get in touch with Dyfed-Powys Police

As spokesman said: “You can telephone 101 or email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired you can text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Please quote Dyfed-Powys Police Ref DP-20200805-249.”

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Police ask communities to stay alert to prevent raves this weekend

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Police are asking communities to stay alert to prevent raves this weekend.

As we head into the weekend, police are urging members of the public in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire to help them prevent illegal raves from setting up in their communities.

A police operation, called #OpFlamenco, is urging people living in rural communities, including farmers and landowners, to report anything suspicious to Dyfed-Powys Police.

The information will help police respond swiftly as illegal raves arise and hopefully prevent them from happening or at the very least allow police to respond before they become established.

Superintendent Jon Cummins, Head of Specialist Operations for Dyfed-Powys Police, said:

“We know raves can cause anxiety to the community they are held in, and if not dealt with swiftly are difficult to stop due to the sheer numbers of people involved. There is also a safety concern involved in breaking-up such events. And as we’re currently faced with the pandemic, it is absolutely crucial that these types of gatherings do not take place.

“As a force, action is taken as soon as we gather any intelligence of an event being planned. We will continue to respond swiftly to reports of illegal gatherings, and where appropriate will prosecute those responsible in order to protect our communities. Officers will also be conducting proactive patrols of areas identified as possible sites for these types of gatherings.

“However, these types of illegal events are carefully co-ordinated to avoid police attention, and organisers will always try to find new ways to avoid being found out.

“We rely on the support of communities to report any suspicious activity immediately, so action can be taken to disrupt illegal gatherings swiftly. And there has never been a more important time for us all to look out for each other, and report anything that seems suspicious.

“I would encourage farmers, landowners and local communities to report anything they feel is suspicious or out of the ordinary either online at: http://bit.ly/DPPReportOnline, or by email at: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101.”

Know the signs:

Unusual numbers of vehicles, especially camper vans, vans or trucks, seen in the locality.
Illegal trespassers may recce sites in advance of any rave

People may approach landowners and ask around for land, in the guise of hiring it for acceptable activities such as gymkhanas or scout camps.

If you suspect anyone who approaches you for land hire might not be who they say they are, please do not hesitate to contact police.

Social networks make it easier for organisers to spread the word – rave attendance numbers can grow hugely in short spaces of time, and locations can change quickly.

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Haverfordwest: Appeal for information following incident at Morrisons

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POLICE are investigating a shoplifting and assault allegation which occurred at approximately 3.20pm on Saturday (Aug 1) at Morrisons, Haverfordwest.

A teenage male was involved in an altercation with the store security guard after he and two older people, a male and a female, were stopped for the purpose of checking receipts as they exited the store.

All three had left the store before police arrival.

Police said: “There were a number of customers of the store who may have witnessed the incident.

“Anyone with information which could help the investigation is asked contact police.”

“Police can be contacted at contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.”

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