FROM extremism to scams, hundreds of schoolchildren in Portsmouth have been given the skills to spot possible dangers when surfing the web.
In sessions organised by Portsmouth City Council, they are learning to think about what they see on the internet and question it, not just accept it.
The first pupils to get the training were Years 4, 5 and 6 at Cottage Grove Primary School in Southsea.
They took part in an interactive session with Ollie Barron of Parent Zone, a government-approved group that works to help families be safer online.
The sessions, funded by the Home Office, are part of the national Prevent strategy, which aims to protect people from being drawn into extremism.
John Webster, the council’s Prevent education officer, said the effort was vitally important.
He said: ‘The sessions are about helping children to be safer in the online world, whether they’re gaming, using social media or researching their homework.
‘They’re part of our Prevent work, but extremism is only one of the things covered.’
The sessions looked at how children can spot things from scams and fake news to online grooming by paedophiles.
Mr Webster added: ‘They’re fun, age-appropriate, interactive sessions where children share their ideas and opinions, and learn how to question things and make their own minds up.
‘These are the kind of skills they need online, to protect themselves from dangers like fake news, scams, and grooming – whether by extremists or people with other motives.
‘A major theme of the sessions is that children should share what they do online with their parents or other trusted adults.
‘They should have fun online together. And if children run into problems, they should go to a trusted adult for help.’
Polly Honeychurch, headteacher at Cottage Grove, said the session had been well-received by pupils and sent an invaluable message.
She said: ‘We’re keen to make sure our children know how to keep themselves safe in both the real and the online world. This session really engaged the children and helped them to feel they can be safe online.’
There are a limited number of sessions available to Portsmouth schools who request them. Schools should contact firstname.lastname@example.org if they are interested.