Play helps young people learn about online safety

Lisburn and Castlereagh's '˜Internet Safety Day' (February 6) was marked in schools across the council area with the delivery of an interactive play to highlight the dangers of using the web inappropriately.

Pictured at the recent Lisburn and Castlereagh PSCP Internet Safety event are pupils and teachers from Friends' School Lisburn with Councillor Aaron McIntyre, Chairman of Lisburn and Castlereagh PCSP; Constable Heather Crompton, PSNI; Jenny Magee and actors from C21 Drama Group.

The play, which was organised by Lisburn & Castlereagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), local police and Lisburn YMCA, was delivered on February 5, 6 and 7.

Given the widespread use of social media among young people, the play highlighted the dangers associated with inappropriate use of the internet. It portrayed the dangers of making friends online, grooming and ‘sexting’, and the use of social media generally. It was shown to Year 8, 9 and 10 pupils from Dundonald High, Lagan College, St Patrick’s Academy, Laurel Hill College, Friends’ School and Lisnagarvey High.

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A number of primary schools from across the council area also took up the invitation to view the play.

The schools involved were Tor Bank School, Brooklands, St Joseph’s, Lisburn, St Aloysius, Ballycarrickmaddy and St Joseph’s, Carryduff.

A question and answer session followed each of the plays, with representatives from the PSNI, YMCA and NSPCC offering their professional advice to the students.

Commenting on the success of the play, Lisburn & Castlereagh PCSP Chairman, Councillor Aaron McIntyre said: “I am encouraged that 12 schools from across the council area took up the opportunity for their pupils to attend this important play and hear the professional advice on offer from the police, YMCA and NSPCC.

“There are genuine concerns to be addressed regarding online safety and protecting our young people. I hope that everyone who saw the play and was involved in the discussions now have an increased awareness of the importance of protecting their identities and knowing who they are talking to when online.”

Chief Inspector Lorraine Dobson from Lisburn & Castlereagh PSNI commented: “It is vitally important that all children and young people pause to give serious thought to what they are doing online. We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other. But all of us need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially on social media. We are pleased that so many schools came together to look at this issue.”

Jenny Magee from Lisburn YMCA said it was encouraging to see so many schools and pupils engaging with the vital issue of online safety.

“By using a live drama production alongside the discussion and advice of professionals allows us to engage pupils on the issue in a unique way and ensure the important messages are heard by everyone,” she said.

Colin Reid, Policy and Public Affairs Manager from NSPCC, added: “This play is a great way of helping young people keep safe online. The internet is an amazing place for young people to learn, create and build friendships so it’s vital their online world is a safe one. We all have a responsibility to ensure children are kept safe online so they can enjoy the positives without being exposed to risks including inappropriate content or online abuse.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about internet safety should contact the PSNI on 101, email the PCSP at [email protected], check out the NSPCC website or call Childline 24/7 on 0800 1111.