Sexual Exploitation Multiagency input in Bridgend Schools

The School Community Police Officers work in partnership with the lead agency, Bridgend Education Welfare Department and also the Child Protection Department, to deliver inputs to all year 8 pupils in schools. Originally designed by Barnardos the PowerPoint presentation deliveries have been updated with SCPO help. A mix of scenario based discussions and video clips explore the risks of face-to-face and online child grooming.

The workshops support pupils in learning how to make accurate risk assessments of common situations they might find themselves in.

The sessions are aimed at helping pupils identify the risks in a given scenario as high or low; what actions can be taken to reduce risk and what the consequences are to responding appropriately or inappropriately to those risks.

Child grooming refers to actions deliberately undertaken by adults. The aim of which is to befriend and establish an emotional connection with a child, in order to lower the child's inhibitions in preparation for sexual activity, or other forms of exploitation. Grooming doesn’t have to be online, but the Internet gives paedophiles the anonymity to act more freely, and the access to children, who are not under direct parental supervision.

There is a trend amongst young people and children of indiscriminately befriending hundreds of others on social networking sites, most of whom they do not know in any other area of their life. They tend to believe what others post about themselves.

When pointing out that children often ‘lie up’ their age online Many do so as certain sites insist that users are 13 and over and many under 13s have accounts with such sites. Other online users ‘lie down’ their age to appear young. It is pointed out to young people that if you do not know someone in the real world then they are effectively a stranger and not necessarily to be trusted.

Young people say that the sessions have been extremely helpful in keeping them safe.

Here are some of the things they have said after the sessions: 

“I thought I knew who I was friends with online, but now I realise quite a lot are really strangers and it would make sense to un-friend them”.

“I know how to report any abuse online using the CEOP button; it makes me feel more confident online”. 

“I changed my privacy settings so now only friends can see my posts.”

“The sessions made me really think about the real risks I could put myself in." 

“I think I am safer now on line and I know what to do if someone made me feel unsafe”.