Leigh Park school’s social network helps pupils stay safe

ONLINE Pupils Erin Williams , 10, Bailey Coates, 11, and Amy Benfield, 11.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121491-1)
ONLINE Pupils Erin Williams , 10, Bailey Coates, 11, and Amy Benfield, 11. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121491-1)
Newbridge Junior School Picture: Maria Bujor

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AN EXPERIMENT that exposed the dangers of Facebook has led to a Leigh Park primary being the first school in Hampshire to sign up to a safe online network.

Youngsters at Warren Park Primary can now video chat, make friends and play games online through Greatbritishkids.com in the knowledge that their new ‘cyber contacts’ are the right age and who they say they are.

Colin Harris, headteacher, signed up to the safe social network after the school set up a fake Facebook with its Warren monkey mascot for a profile to test the waters after reports from some parents that their children had be subjected to cyber-bulling.

About 15 pupils ‘befriended’ the mascot.

Mr Harris said: ‘We asked the children “who is he?” and no-one could answer that, they had assumed he was a friend of the school but we all know people can disguise themselves all too easily on the internet.

‘The majority of 11-year-olds across the country are on sites like Facebook, even though they’re not allowed until they are 13. We’re not alone – but we can’t afford to ignore the problem.

‘Pupils can’t access these sites in school but we believe we can have an influence on what goes on at home so that things don’t get out of hand.’

Greatbritishkids.com is monitored by cyber security officers.

It has a built-in alert button on every page with links to the child exploitation and online protection centre, Childline and the Samaritans.