Child safety advocates are urging parents to keep an eye on their kids online time as the new school year starts, warning they could be targeted by predators.
Child safety advocates are urging parents to keep an eye on their kids online time as the new school year starts, warning they could be targeted by predators.

Predators lurking in students’ devices

CHILD safety advocates are urging parents to keep an eye on their kids online time as the new school year starts, warning they are susceptible to bullying and could be targeted by predators.

Thousands of Townsville students will be starting a new school year with brand new phones or tablets, and are among 98 per cent of children under 10 years old who already have a digital device.

While bullying is generally dealt with internally, Townsville Child Protection and Investigation Unit Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Miles said severe cases often came across his desk.

"The reality is, during the course of each school year, we will get a number of allegations made for online bullying," Sen-Sgt Miles said.

"The kids get into their groups, establish themselves, and depending on what happens in those groups there is potential for bullying.

"Social media provides these kids with an opportunity to put things up online that they wouldn't usually say in person."

Sen-Sgt Miles said some cases of online bullying ended in serious charges.

Detective senior sergeant Dave Miles is urging parents to keep an eye on their kids online time as the new school year starts. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Detective senior sergeant Dave Miles is urging parents to keep an eye on their kids online time as the new school year starts. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

"Depending on the nature of the online harassment, there are offences under legislation with penalties that can range anywhere from five years to 14 years imprisonment," he said.

"But you've also got the physical aspect, like assaults, fights in the school grounds."

Act For Kids executive Stephen Beckett said the same digital devices could also be used for more sinister activities.

He said online grooming was a real danger if digital devices weren't properly monitored or set up.

"Kids are being groomed online … while kids are quietly in their bedrooms, that's where the abuse is taking place," Mr Beckett said.

"That's where adults pretend they are another child … start engaging and developing a familiar relationship, and it escalated from there.

"Have a valuable conversation with kids …. secure their devices with passwords so they know when their child is online."

Mr Beckett said some child groomers sent their victims gifts and money, and parents should keep an eye out for any unexplained gifts.

"Talk about the risk of people pretending to be friends with your kids," he said.

Originally published as Predators lurking in students' devices


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