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Stay Safe Online campaign calls for frank talks about digital threats facing children in Suffolk

Frontline youth workers and charity organisations from across Suffolk come together for the launch of the Stay Safe Online fund at the University of Suffolk. Picture: SUFFOLK PCC'S OFFICE

Frontline youth workers and charity organisations from across Suffolk come together for the launch of the Stay Safe Online fund at the University of Suffolk. Picture: SUFFOLK PCC'S OFFICE

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Frank conversations must be had between parents, charity workers and children if a campaign aiming to raise awareness of digital threats facing young people in Suffolk is to succeed.

Professor Emma Bond, an expert in online safety from the University of Suffolk, is backing our new campaign. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLKProfessor Emma Bond, an expert in online safety from the University of Suffolk, is backing our new campaign. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK

That’s the message from academics and police officers as thousands of youngsters return to schools – in the same week the Stay Safe Online appeal, backed by this newspaper, takes another step forward.

In a drive to crack down on the “cocktail” of cyber threats facing young people in the county, academics and youth organisations came together at the University of Suffolk to discuss the issue – and the role they have to play in solving it.

At the session, experts made it clear that children need to feel comfortable talking to parents, schools and youth groups about nude photographs, sexting and online trolls. Speaking at the event, Paul Maskall of the joint Norfolk and Suffolk Cyber Crime Unit said: “Social media is not going to go away – it is here to stay and we need to be aware of how much it affects the lives of young people in Suffolk and beyond.

“Smartphones are like portable dopamine generators – every like on Instagram matters.

“It stimulates a neurological reaction which cannot – and must not – be ignored.”

Frontline youth workers met with academics at the university last week to discuss their eligibility for a share in the £100,000 being injected into the campaign by police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore.

Before these were discussed, Professor Emma Bond stressed how much of a role charities and organisations already working closely with young people have to play.

She said: “The solution to this problem is right here with us now.

“We need to be having frank conversations with young people themselves.

“They want honesty, they want us to talk about pornography and nudes.

“There is no point in parents, schools and us having our heads in the sand.”

She added: “Actually involving children and young people rather than taking an adult centric approach is the key – as we have found in our research – and you will help us to engage with them.”

Once they had been briefed by experts, they were encouraged to apply for grants of up to £10,000, delivered by the Suffolk Community Foundation.

Click here for advice on how to apply.

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