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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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Council to showcase services at County Show

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THE SHOW IS BACK – and following a two-year absence, this year’s event will be the first open to the public since 2019.
As a celebration of rural life in the county, the show is the perfect platform to engage with both local communities and visitors.
This year, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will be held over two days, on 17 and 18 August – and the Pembrokeshire County Council is attending the event to highlight the work they undertake, support available and the employment opportunities they have to offer.
To ensure the Local Authority provides information on a wide range of our services, this year our Social Services team are in a stand-alone marquee, enabling people to visit a one-stop-shop of support.
We will also give visitors the opportunity to join us in the corporate marquee to engage with Cabinet Members, the Chief Executive and a whole host of interesting and innovative projects happening across the county.
Pembrokeshire County Council Chief Executive Will Bramble said: “Our teams are excited about engaging with the public and having the opportunity to demonstrate what they do – and highlight the wealth of support available along with the wide range of career opportunities we have to offer.
“This will be my first Pembrokeshire Show as Chief Executive and I am looking forward to engaging with the rural and wider communities of this fantastic county.
“The Pembrokeshire Show is the perfect platform to celebrate the amazing produce we have to offer – and to meet new and old friends. Please come and visit our marquees and discover more about the support available and the transformational projects we are doing, which will improve the lives of our communities and visitors. I look forward to meeting you at the show.”
Among those joining the team will be the Broadband project, the Haverfordwest Regeneration work and the fascinating ongoing archaeological dig exhibition with Dyfed Archaeological Trust. Visitors will also get the chance to engage with Cabinet Members who will attend across the two-day event.
In the Social Services marquee will be Foster Care, Carers Support and the recruitment team who will be able to discuss how you can start your career in social care, and join the team making a real difference to the lives of people in our communities.
Cllr Paul Miller: Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change, added: “The County Show is a well-loved and important celebration of rural life in Pembrokeshire, and we are delighted to be part of the event once again this year. Our staff and members will be chatting to lots of people from communities’ right across Pembrokeshire: please do drop into our stands and say hello – we’re looking forward to meeting you.”

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RNLI help firefighters control island blaze

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ST DAVIDS lifeboat volunteers provided support to local fire crews tackling a wildfire on Carreg Fran off Porthlysgi beach on Monday, (Aug 8).

The fire on Carreg Fran Porthlysgi beach is suspected to have started from the remnants of wild camping on the island.

St Davids fire service requested the assistance of the all-weather lifeboat Norah Wortley to transfer staff and equipment following reports of people swimming to the island in an attempt to extinguish the blaze.
Seven fire crews used a featherweight pump and hoses to douse the island with sea water in an operation lasting over seven hours.

This is the second time St Davids lifeboat volunteers have been called to wildfire concerns at Carreg Fran within the last month.

Despite earlier attempts to control the fire, the islands’ peat surface has continued to smoulder.

Will Chant, RNLI Coxswain for St Davids RNLI lifeboat, said: “St Davids fire station requested our logistical help to safely transport their crew and equipment to Carreg Fran.

“We stood by in support whilst the fire crew tackled the wildfire.

“Despite their best efforts, the fire reignited the next day, so we urge members of the public not to attempt to access the island as they are putting their own lives at risk.”

Since the start of summer, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue have attended 280 grass fires that have either been started deliberately or were accidental.

Richie Vaughan-Williams, Arson Reduction Manager, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Its everyone’s responsibility to protect our countryside from wildfires.

“Many of the fires are set deliberately but some occur through negligence or boredom.

“This is frustrating when our fire crews can then get detained for hours in difficult conditions trying to stop the damage, meaning that they are then sometimes delayed in attending other emergencies.”I would encourage everyone to consider their actions when enjoying the countryside and avoid lighting fires at all.

“We need to work together to support our communities, to ensure the safety of our family and friends, neighbours, members of the public and our Emergency Services.”

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Pembrokeshire County Council issues dog boarding kennels warning

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PEMBROKESHIRE dog owners and those visiting the County with their pets are being reminded that any individuals offering to board their dogs must be licensed by Pembrokeshire County Council.The message comes from the Council’s Animal Health and Welfare Team following an increase in ‘dog boarding’ advertising on Facebook.
Cllr Michelle Bateman, Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services, said: “While we enjoy the summer, we want to remind all dog owners, whether you are a resident or in Pembrokeshire for a holiday, that those offering to accommodate your dog must hold a licence from the Council.
“This is required by law under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963, whether it be in a home, kennels or a day care environment, and is irrespective of the period of time required.”
All dogs must also be up to date with their vaccinations, which includes Kennel Cough.
The Animal Health and Welfare Team would also like to advise dog owners to be diligent when engaging dog walking only services to ensure that those offering

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