Family Lives responds to vigilante parents confront online paedophiles

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive says:

News that a group of Leicestershire parents have formed a "vigilante" group to confront suspected paedophiles by posing as young girls online is inadvisable. Taking the law into one’s own hands and meting out summary justice could in a worst case scenario lead to cases of mistaken identity.  Anyone who has suspicions or concerns should contact the police and the Child Exploitation and Protection Centre.  It is vital that children, parents and the wider family are equipped to protect themselves from the potentially damaging consequences of new social media technologies.  In a survey by Family Lives and Drinkaware in June 2011, 86% of parents felt that increased technological exposure is unduly influencing their children to grow up too quickly. The survey exposed real gaps in parents’ confidence around technology and the way their children interact with the cyber world.  54% of parents had never heard of the term ‘sexting’, despite its increasing prevalence in schools and amongst young people.  Alarmingly, half of 10-12 year olds surveyed had unsupervised access to a computer in their bedroom. This indicates that the messages about how to keep children safe online are not filtering through to parents.  We know parents are concerned about these issues.  Between April 2010 and March 2012, Family Lives received 1,741 calls concerning their child’s sexual behaviour.  It’s vital therefore that young people are educated about what is or isn’t suitable online behaviour.  Family Lives’ TeenBoundaries programme is active in schools and has already worked with 7000 pupils, equipping them with the skills to fend off sexual predators.  It is clear that there is more work to do, both to ensure that all parents have access to advice about the simple ways to help keep their children safe online, but also to offer more advanced training for parents to increase their confidence around interventions such as parental controls.

The more help and information that parents and carers have to understand technology issues and to talk to their kids about risky behaviours, the safer their kids will be. Free advice is available through the Family Lives helpline on 0808 800 2222 or via ouronline services