Vigilante Paedophile Hunters Are Not The Answer


Vigilante Paedophile Hunters Are Not The Answer

Posted: September 20, 2017 | Jim Gamble QPM

When it comes to paedophile activity in online spaces, the only thing that tends to change is that their numbers continue to increase. I believe that one of the contributing factors to this is the lack of real deterrence; too few police officers to deal with the tidal wave of online offending.

There is no doubt in my mind that the growth in unregulated or ‘vigilante’ activity is in no small measure, down to the frustration many people feel when they see our children harmed, and so few predators caught and held to account. In 2014 ‘Hunters’ accounted for 11% of the cases successfully prosecuted at court. Last year that number rose to 44%. Proof, if it were needed, that you do not need to be a police officer to make a difference. infogfx2

The really shocking figure from the BBC Freedom of Information (FOI) request however, is found in the total number of convictions for grooming a child to meet for sex.  According to the FOI the police and Paedophile Hunters combined achieved only 259 convictions.

Some may attempt to defend that number by including the work against offenders who download images, but that is investigated in a different way. In my opinion the only legitimate comparison between these crime types is the equally disappointing number of offenders caught in each category. The Chief Constable of Norfolk Simon Bailey set out the scale of the problem last year when he told us that up to 100,000 UK IP addresses are downloading indecent images; of someone’s child everyday.

I am sure that vigilantes are not the answer.

Whilst most are well meaning, a few are self-serving, some may even have criminal records and are therefore unsuitable for such a role.  However, they have all shown us that you don’t need to be a police officer to catch a predator. You should however be vetted, trained and authorised to work within the criminal justice system. So what is the answer? Special Constables trained as Digital Detectives.

Special Constables, uniformed citizen volunteers walk the streets of our towns and villages every week.

Their presence deters offenders, makes people safer and critically makes them feel safer. There is absolutely no reason they cannot patrol the online spaces. These volunteer citizens can be trained to seek out these abusers, to identify, locate and lure them to a place where the police arrest them.

We sometimes see the very best of people in the worst of times and communities across the UK are filled with good, in fact great, decent people. People who care enough to make a difference.
Now is the time to call up that citizen’s army; vet, train and equip them to support the police.

It is time to turn the tables. If every force recruited only 25 volunteers we could launch a credible counter offensive with over a 1,000 Special Constables operating undercover as digital detectives.  Such reinforcements would have the potential to make a real impact by delivering a real deterrent.

And here is the key, they are volunteers; they are absolutely free. So ask yourself this, can we afford to ignore this scheme?

Follow @JimGamble_INEQE

This post originally appeared as a Blog on HuffPost UK.


Does Football Deserve a Red Card?

Posted: January 17, 2017 | Jim Gamble QPM

A Time for Credible rather than Comfortable Choices

football-pitch-training-guideThe headline that Chelsea Football Club has been cleared of breaking any Premiership rules whist technically true is potentially misleading; the devil, as always is in the detail. An informed examination reveals what the headline should have been; Until recently the Premiership’s rules for safeguarding children were simply not fit for purpose.

Whilst the loophole about reporting an allegation to them has been closed, in my opinion this loophole reflected a culture which lacked a firm child centred focus. It revealed an apparent willingness by some to hide behind the fact that whilst failing to report and escalate concerns was wrong, it wasn’t actually against the rules.

football-pitch-training-guideAs everyone in football begins to reflect on the harm done and react to the lessons learned many will go through the motions of ticking boxes and making grand statements about their commitment to keep young players safe. They will check, on paper at least, that everything is as it should be. However, it is people and their behaviour that hurts children. It is people and their behaviour not paper exercises that really counts when it comes to safeguarding the young and vulnerable.

Vetting only weeds out those already captured. The predators who infiltrate the game, those who’ve never been caught, they get the training, they have the power and influence and they often use it to abuse whilst they hide in plain sight. Whatever individual clubs and organisations do next, it must be contemporary, credible and relevant.

Safeguarding needs to be contextual. The good the bad and the ugly aspects of children and young people’s lives will invariably be reflected in their social media footprint; the online spaces, the public and private places they frequent. Given what we’ve learned about players’ online engagement with young fans and the fact that today’s digital world offers the predator a new means to communicate, influence and control their victims, then no review will be contemporary, credible or relevant if social media and its use is not at its core.

Successful Safeguarding is a Shared Responsibility
Clubs must engage staff, parents, carers and young players themselves. The conversation will never be as relevant as it is right now! It is real, it is on the news, in the daily papers and all over social media. So this is the time to ensure that everyone knows what to look for and what to do if they’ve seen it or heard it or if something just doesn’t feel right. Trust your instinct. The only person who will feel really uncomfortable whilst this conversation takes place is the predator within.

A Game of Two Halves
Auditing policy and compliance may be a credible start and can be compared to your defensive framework. But, to turn your defence into attack it is essential to have the programme and tools that ‘educate and empower’ all those who share the responsibility of safeguarding the young people in our care.

A Word to the Associations.
football-pitch-training-guideThe flow of young people into this sport we love so well is essential to its future success at both professional and amateur levels. Isn’t it about time we treated our most valuable asset with the importance it deserves.

Ensuring and assessing compliance cannot be a box ticking exercise; it must be treated with the same dynamic, relentlessness and unpredictable approach as drug testing in the best sports. Independent safeguarding teams turning up at a club unannounced and asking tough questions that test the effectiveness of policy and training. Seeking out parents, carers to check that they know what to do and who to speak to. Asking young players themselves if they know how to report when something inappropriate happens. These are the tactics that will deliver the results we need.

Now is the time to make credible rather than comfortable choices. When the FA, Premier League and clubs carry out independent safeguarding reviews in future they must begin by using the right people, individuals with absolute independence and a credible safeguarding background. In my experience the right people, in the right roles are those who will always do the right thing, even when the rules suggest they could do otherwise.

Jim Gamble QPM was the founding Chief Executive of CEOP and is currently CEO of the INEQE Group of Specialist Safeguarding Companies and the Independent Chair of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board (the first and only Board ever to be Judged outstanding by Ofsted)

Follow @JimGamble_INEQE

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What you need to know about sexting

Posted: August 16, 2016 | Jim Gamble QPM

Parents & professionals! Think before you speak

What is ‘sexting’?

Sexting is taking a sexually explicit photograph and texting quote-marks(sharing) it via your mobile phone to others. Sexually explicit content can easily be distributed between people, through the use of smartphones, the Internet and through online social networking sites.

Why is it an issue?

Recent studies claim that up to 39% of teens and 59% of young adults have sexted at least once.

NSPCC Research finds a 15% increase in counselling related to sxting.


As children grow up they will be influenced as much, if not more, by their friends as by their parents. People in the public eye, people they look up to and people they want to be like can also have young-peoplea powerful influence on them.

It is never too early to invest in positive conversations with children and young people and it is always good to reassure them that no matter what happens they can always come to you or go to the designated safeguarding officer or their parents/guardian for help.

The Law

It is an offence to take or share an indecent image of a child under 18. young-peopleTherefore, a child who takes an image of themselves and shares it technically commits a criminal offence. Although the Police do not prosecute children who have made a simple error of judgment, the fact it may be investigated causes children to worry and could be a deterrent to them coming forward.

So please reassure them that everyone, including the police, will simply want to help them.

What are the dangers?

Images can be spread privately by text, Messenger, WhatsApp, ooVoo and a range of other apps.young-people They can be posted to social networking sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Most social networking sites have strict policies that prohibit nude photographs however, they are also clear in stating that they are ‘reactive’. They DO NOT proactively monitor all content that is posted on their platforms.

How do I deal with sexting?

When an image, especially a nude image is reported, navy_phone_sending_picturesocial networking sites normally will and most definitely should remove the content immediately.

The quicker an inappropriate image is reported, the easier it is for those working in the navy_alert_triangleInternet industry to take the image of their site and to do what they can to prevent or stop it spreading further.


If you are speaking with a child who has confided in you about this issue, BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU SAY, and how you say it. Telling a child or young person that once an image goes online, it stays online can remove hope and can be detrimental to a child’s health and wellbeing.

The key is EARLY reporting and EARLY intervention.

And remember sexting is not just about people children engage online, who they don’t really know, it also applies to images they have willingly shared with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Find out about our Safeguarding in a Digital World Masterclass

pokemon go

Is Pokémon Go safe for children to play?

Posted: July 29, 2016 | Emma Herron

This month all anyone can talk about is Pokémon Go. In fact, Pokémon Go users are already spending more time on the app than users of WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Messenger spend on those apps. Now that the initial frenzy has worn off, we thought we would give you the essential information you need to safeguard children and young people playing it.


What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is an AR (augmented reality) game where you collect and trade creatures called Pokémon (Pocket Monsters). It allows players to use the location services on their smartphone and the camera to find Pokémon in the real world. In Pokémon Go the aim is to find, catch, battle and trade Pokémon and players are actively encouraged to connect with other players in their area as they do so. You can find a detailed guide to the mechanics of Pokémon Go here.

What are the risks?

Although in theory Pokémon Go is a great idea that helps and encourages people to be physically active and requires them to  be on-the-go to locate Pokémon, there are several safeguarding risks also.

The game has been designed to bring people together who have a shared interest in catching Pokémon. This could mean that using the app will involve meeting strangers face-to-face. This may lead to encounters with people with more dubious intentions, who could use the interactions as a potential means of grooming children and young people. There have been several reports of groups of people actively drawing people to locations using “lure modules”, which appear on the game as a place where players can find large amounts of Pokémon. These lures have been used for criminal activity and for isolating people and bringing them to secluded, unsafe areas where they are more vulnerable.

Despite the app being free to download, the game also has in-app purchases that can be quite costly. Other potential risks can include minor physical injuries caused due to distraction and the app draining a device’s battery quite rapidly, which might be worrying if it is the only means of staying in touch with a child.

How do I keep children and young people safe when playing it?

While the game may seem risky or daunting, there are some relatively simple steps parents can take to ensure their child is safe and to allow them to have fun playing the game. A common sense approach is important. Some steps that parents can take include:

  • Playing the game themselves so that they are aware of the dangers
  • Accompanying younger children when they play the game
  • Setting ground rules for older children to ensure that they know the potential dangers, not to speak to strangers and not to wander too far on their adventures
  • Making sure children stay with their group of friends
  • Giving the child a battery pack so they are able to contact parents when playing
  • Ensuring that they know where their child is going
  • Telling children to be aware of their surroundings
  • Turning off in-app purchases

Like with any new app or game, by using common sense and setting responsible boundaries, parents can rest assured that their child gets the most enjoyment from this interactive game and can “Catch ’em all” whilst avoiding the potential risks.

Deep web overiview

Safeguarding in the digital era – E-safety is dead

Posted: May 27, 2016 | Jim Gamble QPM

In the digital era that we now live in, we can no longer think of internet safety or e-safety as a separate entity when safeguarding children and young people. In fact, if someone tries to tell you of the importance of “e-safety” in the traditional sense, then you should probably stop listening to them. This is 2016 and “e-safety” as we once knew it is now dead. Today, the online world and the “real” world are so integrated that digital safeguarding IS safeguarding.

Therefore, we can’t simply think of the internet as an afterthought when trying to protect the wellbeing of children and young people.

When the Ineqe team consider online safety, we think of safeguarding in the context of children’s access to technology and their use of social networking sites. However, it’s also important to consider the more hidden dangers, away from the mainstream and easily-accessible public face of the internet. I’m referring to the deep web and more specifically, the dark web. If you haven’t heard of the dark web before, then you are probably quite unlikely to stumble upon it.

It lies beneath the surface of the everyday websites that are accessible via Google and other search engines, in the deep web. It cannot be accessed by traditional web browsers, only via anonymising software, which I won’t go into in too much detail, as I merely wish to inform, not facilitate its use.

The deep web is gigantic and it is impossible to verify how many web pages that are on it at any one time. The anonymity that it provides has made it a labyrinth of criminal activities, some of which directly affect the lives of children and young people. Therefore, it is important for safeguarding and child protection professionals to have at least a basic knowledge of what it is.

Although often used interchangeably, the above graphic highlights the difference between the dark web/ net and the deep web.  Generally, the ‘Deep Web’ is a generic term for all unindexed web pages that can’t be found through search engines such as Google or Bing. The Deep Web includes many webpages that are encrypted with passwords or documents in formats which is why they cannot be indexed.

Gaining access to the deep web is not a difficult process. The hard part is knowing where to look and where not to look. Access to the dark web is not difficult from here. Due to the illicit and illegal material contained on it, I would advise against even browsing it out of curiosity.

The deep/dark web also makes ‘trolling’ easier. Although sites such as Reddit, 4Chan, Ask FM and to a lesser-extent Twitter are home to many people who hide their identity to antagonise others, the dark web gives them an extra cloak of protection. This is partly the reason that I feel that there should be a ‘masquerading’ law, to prevent people from assuming false or anonymous identities.

I’ve seen countless cases of trolling, often done for sport, which have led to depression, self-harm and suicide attempts amongst vulnerable children and young people.

Besides trolling, the dark web provides child abusers with a means of distributing indecent images of children globally to fellow abusers and has made it easier to do so. Although it has made the job of policing this and safeguarding children increasingly difficult, it is still necessary to be aware of.

It’s also important to note that up to a third of these images are now generated by the young people themselves whilst sexting and sharing them online. Child abusers source and curate these images in the dark web.  This shows the normalcy of sexting to young people and how it has become a part of their everyday lives, which is another reason the concept of “e-safety” has become so outdated.

It goes without saying, but due to the nature of the dark web, it is important to restrict children and young people’s access to it. It is always a good rule to try and limit the unsupervised access to the internet that a child has. Children and young people are bound to find this secret section of the internet alluring and may want to investigate. To appease the young person’s interest, you could instead persuade them to join a code club for computer programming to develop their interests in a safer environment.

Any post about the dark web would not be complete without a sensationalised tale of the lurid criminal underbelly it houses. Although it is true that many people use the dark web to purchase drugs and other illegal items, the dark web is also used by people who want to remain anonymous for security and privacy reasons. That includes people who may need to shield their identity and communications from surveillance from the state or other agencies, such as investigative journalists or whistle-blowers. The deep web is used daily for a wide variety of reasons by the military, police and activists, among others.

I have decided to write about the dark web to enhance your understanding of it, rather than rouse your interest. The Dark Web isn’t for spectators and given the illicit and criminal activity that can lurk on it, merely visiting it can be risky. It is still important to know about the factors that could endanger the safety and wellbeing of children and young people though especially, as I mentioned, in the context of their access to and use of technology.

However, if you are interested in finding out more, you may want to attend one of the Glimpse: Into the Dark Web conferences, which will feature speakers such as Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think tank Demos and author of ‘The Dark Net’ and of course, myself.


About the Glimpse: Into the Dark Web conferences

The Glimpse: Into the Dark Web conferences take place this June in Belfast (8th),London (10th) and Birmingham (13th). They have been designed to provide a credible insight into the subcultures that exist in the dark net and the risk indicators in children’s lives that make them vulnerable to on and offline grooming, sexualisation, radicalisation and gang affiliation. It poses the question what makes someone sexually abuse children and uses the interviews of predators themselves to reflect possible answers. They have been created to educate and inform those involved in criminology, psychology, policing, social work, teaching, child protection and safeguarding. A highly credible group of expert speakers have been assembled that will share advice and provide contemporary and practical information and insight across the three conferences and include Chief Constable of the PSNI George Hamilton, QPM and NCA Director General Lynne Owens, CBE QPM.  

A version of this article was originally posted on the LinkedIn Pulse of Ineqe Group CEO Jim Gamble. 


Thank you to all those involved in our MCS Online conferences

Posted: January 20, 2016 | Jim Gamble QPM

Last Friday’s Make Children Safer Online: Emerging Threats conference in Belfast concluded this series of events. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response we have received from the Birmingham, London and Belfast conferences.

We feel that our Make Children Safer conference will have been invaluable to child protection professionals when it comes to spotting the dangers posed to children in the online environment and we hope that our delegates agree.

This series of conferences covered a wide range of topics such as gaming, sexting and sextortion and we hope that everyone who attended now feels that they are up-to-date with the current themes, trends and best practice.

mcs Talk

We would like to thank the guest speakers at our events, who provided expert insight into a wide range of contemporary issues. These were:

  • Lorin LaFave: Breck Bednar Foundation
  • Professor Andy Phippen: Professor of Social Responsibility in I.T. at Plymouth University
  • Shahneila Saeed: UK Internet Entertainment
  • Laura Higgins: UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC)

We hope that we can use the unique perspective and knowledge that they provided as we go on to deliver our next series of masterclasses, Safeguarding in a Digital World, in 2016.

Some of the amazing feedback that we received from delegates, comprised of teachers, police officers, social workers and other child protection professionals, included:

I have been to several conferences and inset courses on internet safety over the last few years, and those run by Ineqe are easily the best – the most relevant, practical, up to date and down to earth events out there.  I look forward to seeing you in the future.

Excellent course. Thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely recommend it

Very informative. Hard hitting. Thought I knew about internet safety but I had no idea. Not just about security settings!

Fantastic, very informative course that I will go away and feedback to my school and will impact hugely on the support and guidance we can offer.

This should be mandatory for anyone working in safeguarding. Beyond my expectations

Jim Gamble Lorin LaFave BBC Talkback

On Friday we were also fortunate enough to be featured on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme.

You can listen to one of our speakers Lorin LaFave speaking to William Crawley alongside our CEO Jim Gamble here.

Ineqe Group will also be delivering our acclaimed Glimpse series of conferences later in 2016, where we will feature another excellent range of speakers who will address contemporary safeguarding issues. You can register your interest for this conference by emailing

Thank you to all those who were involved in or attended our Make Children Safer Online: Emerging Threats conferences and have a safe 2016. Hopefully we will see you again soon!


Spotting the warning signs of child sexual abuse

Posted: November 30, 2015 | Jim Gamble QPM

Often when children are distressed, we will be alerted by behavioural changes rather than them stating it to us.

Last week, it was reported that the majority of child sex abuse in England is carried out by family or friends and up to 85% of cases go unreported.

The report inspected data from a variety of sources, which included the police, local councils and surveys from more than 750 survivors of abuse.

According to the study by the Children’s Commissioner for England:

  • Two-thirds of child sexual abuse took place within trusted family or friendship circles
  • 75% of victims were female
  • The average age of victims is nine years old
  • Victims were often unable to comprehend what was happening until adolescence
  • Frequently when a child reported the abuse to someone, there was no cessation of said abuse

The Children’s Commissioner stated that the government needed to address the issue urgently and it was a necessity that there was more training to help teachers, social services, police and safeguarding/ child protection professionals identify abuse early on.

This comes at the same time as Justice Lowell Goddard announced an initial 12 strands in her investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse.

Below we have highlighted 9 Warning signs that a child is potentially being sexually abused or groomed

Although any one of the below signs does not necessarily indicate that a child is being abused, and could have another cause such as bereavement or divorce, if a child is displaying a combination of these behaviours it may be time to ask questions or seek help.

Some of the following behaviours may be indicative of sexual abuse:

  1. Not wishing to be alone with a particular person
  2. Tantrums or eruptions of anger
  3. Unexplained or unusual bruises
  4. Becoming withdrawn or guarded
  5. Being sexually suggestive in language or action or acting in a manner that is not age-appropriate
  6. Trying to run away from home
  7. Inexplicable and drastic changes in personality
  8. Committing acts of self-harm
  9. Talking about a new friend who gave them money or gifts

At Ineqe, we have perfected a series of courses and training classes to help child protection and safeguarding professionals spot risks early on.

Early intervention is imperative and can be the difference between long-term and short-term abuse.




Internet safety – The blame game won’t help but new thinking might

Posted: November 8, 2015 | Jim Gamble QPM

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

When it comes to the topics of internet safety, child sexual exploitation and grooming, too often we all play the blame game. We focus on one player or another, the internet industry, parents, teachers, social workers, and the police or the influence commercialisation has on our children’s attitudes to sex. What this means is that by accident rather than design we provide a sense of panic, misdirection of blame and a distraction that enables predators to hide.

In my opinion, the reason our children are at risk of sexualisation, radicalisation, bullying and other forms of intimidation online is unequivocally down to people, not the technology they use. Cars don’t kill people – people driving them do. The internet is no different.

That said, it is important to consider how well each of us is doing in our efforts to keep young and vulnerable internet users safer. In my experience context is key. Reporting or making comments that lack appropriate context can be misleading.

A recent UK news article highlighted that of 363 reported cases concerning children groomed online since 2013, 263 (72%) involved Facebook. A damning statistic if totally accurate and if taken at face value without considering context.

Placed into context I think it would be surprising if Facebook didn’t feature as a substantial percentage of this number, if for no other reasons than it is the most dominant and successful of current social media providers. They have 1.49 billion active monthly users (Statista, 2nd quarter 2015).

In my opinion Facebook has radically improved its approach to safety over the last five or six years and they have set a standard others in the industry should seek to follow. There is of course still room for improvement, particularly concerning age verification; a problem for the entire internet industry.

The public nature of Facebook ‘cover photos’ presents an opportunity for people to gain an insight into young people’s lives, their interests, where they live and what they look like. These risks manifest themselves if young users or their parents or carers don’t ensure the public cover photos are constructed with privacy and safety in mind. The propensity of young users to accept friend requests from people they don’t actually know is another issue linked as much to behaviour as to Facebook systems.

The reason Facebook may be linked to lots of incidents is not just because it is so big but because the vast majority of young users use their Facebook credentials to sign up to or into other apps.

Most of the recent work we at Ineqe Group have done with schools has reinforced the fact that whether it is bullying or sexual abuse, predators engage in one online space and move their target to another. We’ve looked at a number of cases in schools recently and tested out the things they’ve told us. In one online chat site which encourages users to talk to strangers, our experience was identical to that of the members of our Safe and Secure schools network. The conversation turned almost immediately to sex and an invitation to move to Kik.

Social media platforms obviously have a duty of care but to be fair if you’re going to focus solely on Facebook you need to recognise they have one of the best moderation and support systems in the business. In actuality Facebook, Twitter, Kik and other social media platforms are just public spaces and it is the people who occupy those spaces who represent a risk to one another. I know the Facebook of today is very different from the start-up it was many years ago. Lots of work has been done, not least by Joanna Shields during her time there and more recently Simon Milne, and their trust and safety team. They’ve reduced opportunities to commit crimes against children within and without their environment and recently introduced a photo identification system to identify and remove indecent images of children. So demand more but don’t look for a silver bullet solution or an individual scapegoat.

The truth is commercial companies can only do so much. We don’t expect a hotel manager to investigate a theft, fight or sexual offence on their premises. We do however expect them to report to the police and when they do it is right that we expect the police to respond.

However, the police themselves cannot deal with this problem in isolation. Cuts in policing numbers have consequences in the real world and in the online world the reduction in resources is making a bad situation worse. Underinvestment in online policing over many years makes it a virtual lottery when it comes to providing a realistic deterrence online. Does anyone seriously think predators sharing images or grooming children on the internet think they’ll be caught? If they did there would be far fewer of them.

Child abuse investigations in the UK have increased 88% since 2012 and the National Police Chiefs Council’s (NPCC) child protection lead Simon Bailey estimates there will be 70,000 live child abuse investigations (of all kinds) underway by the end of this year. Set these figures in the context of a reduction of 32,000 police officers and staff over the same period and consider the fact that there are more cuts to come and you have an idea of the pressure the police service is under.

Parents must play their part and accept rather than abdicate greater levels of responsibility. If your child is online you need to be there too and you need to take or make time to understand how it all works. That means get on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Learn how to set the individual safety settings and get to grips with how to block and report on each.

It’s easy to blame the likes of Facebook, Twitter and, if you don’t understand the way technology works, Google – but that won’t help, sometimes it’s like punching postman Pat because he delivers a letter you don’t like.

In 2012 CEOP estimated that between 50,000 and 60,000 IP addresses (devices) in the UK were downloading child abuse images. In my opinion the people who look at these images tend to do so because of a sexual interest in children and recent studies support my view that most have or will at some stage commit a contact offence against children.

We know there are millions of images circulating between nests of offenders in online peer-to-peer networks and on the dark web but far too few resources are actually dedicated to looking for them; in my experience a comparative handful.

We need to change our approach before it’s too late. So rather than hiding behind sporadic attacks on the internet industry we should concentrate our resources and declare war on those who bully, intimidate, harass, radicalise or sexually abuse our children online.

A possible solution is to mobilise a citizen’s army of special ‘digital’ constables. Volunteers from villages, towns and cities across the UK. People who volunteer would be vetted for good character and recruited as special digital constables.

These citizen volunteers would work from police stations across the country giving up a couple of nights a week. Supervised and supported they would simply go online, pretend to be ‘jessica13’ and wait.

Catching the predators can often be like shooting fish in a barrel. The problem is we don’t have enough people to catch enough of them to create a meaningful deterrent. We all need reinforcements. A special digital volunteer force of 1000 plus citizens could turn the tide.

Terrible headlines are repeated every so often and for a short time people pay attention. We understandably get angry and point the finger of blame at those we can see or reach but we can’t just keep staggering from one sensational headline-grabbing case to another. The blame game must end.

I know I live in a glass house when it comes to this and have thrown a few stones myself especially when it comes to blaming the government.  I do however recognise that the government have rightly challenged many of the key players to do better and that they have funded and supported the further development of the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) but more, much more, needs to be done. Investment is key and it must come from government, if not by significant new financial investment then from creative new thinking. Such new thinking could do well to formalise an approach that supports and encourages the use of digital volunteers.

By Jim Gamble (Ineqe Group CEO)


Why tackling online bullying should be a collaborative effort

Posted: October 29, 2015 | Jim Gamble QPM

In a world that is now dominated by mobile devices the Internet provides 24-7 access to education, information, advice and support. The problem is that the Internet is not just open for the many good things and services that can be found there but also for the bad and sometimes the very ugly.

Children with online access can be exposed to inappropriate material, people and behaviour at any time of the day or night and some young people at the wrong time and in the wrong place will engage with the wrong people.  Whilst most will experience no harm some will become victims of cyber bullying, sexual abuse or radicalisation.

For children and young people this new digital world is a place where having and being seen to have lots of ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ regardless as to whether they are real friends, really matters. So whilst all the risks they face are important and need to be considered, the risk most likely to impact on the greatest number of children is cyber bullying. No matter when or where bullying takes place the impact will invariably seep into the classroom, even on those occasions were the behaviour is occurring outside school hours.

So where should the critical duty of care lie? Who should children expect to protect them? Many parents believe that teachers should deal with these issues regardless of whether they occurred in school or not. However, teachers have legitimate concerns over the size of their existing workload and expecting them to tackle such complex issues beyond the boundaries of the classroom can be unrealistic. This safeguarding issue therefore cannot be left to teachers alone; constructive collaboration is key.

First and foremost, the duty of care for a child lies with their parents or guardian. It is often the parents or guardians who provide the child with the means to access the Internet and social media. They do this via the gaming devices such as Xbox and PlayStation or the laptops, tablets or mobile phones they give to them. Yet, too many do so without considering risks and taking the time to talk through key issues about how their children can responsibly use this new technology.

Parents must not relinquish their responsibility. They must take the time to develop an understanding of the new public places they’ve given their children access to.  That means not hiding behind the mantra of “I don’t do the internet” or “I don’t do social media”. It means learning to use the devices themselves, developing an understanding of ‘age appropriate’ material, platforms and their terms and conditions of use.  It also means downloading and trying out popular Apps like Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Kik. Parents and guardians need to know what to look for and what to listen out for so that when they see it, hear it or are made aware of a problem in their child’s online life they can provide the early help, advice and support that is so crucial to a successful outcome. They need to ask themselves the question, “When there is a problem do I know what to do and where to go for the ‘right’ help?” It is a question best considered before you face a crisis rather than in the middle of one.

Taking the Internet seriously is something parents must do.  They need to understand that it is real and that children can and do get hurt in what many see as a virtual environment.  When a child does tell their parents they have been cyberbullied, parents need to take it seriously. Some parents simply do not see it as an issue, as it has not happened “in real life” and some simply shrug it off. “Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you!” thinking is out of date and dangerous. Good parents will investigate further and get the school involved.

This can put the school and teachers in a difficult position, especially if the incidents occur outside of the school. However, if the young people involved all go to the same school the reality is that it will be an issue there no matter how well hidden during school hours.

Collaborating with the parents of all the children involved can help to resolve an incident before it escalates into a situation leading to the isolation, intimidation, self-harm or criminal consequences for some of the children involved.  Ignoring the issue at home or in school won’t fix them.  In these cases teachers can help but parents and guardians must take the lead.

Blaming others including the big Internet companies won’t make your children safer. In order to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), a law in the United States to prevent children occupying sites where advertising takes place without explicit parental consent, several social media sites prohibit children under the age of 13 from using them.  They set out these limits in their terms and conditions of use and although there is a debate to be had about how well such sites limit access by children the fact remains that parents themselves have a key role as the principal guardian. It is the parent or guardians responsibility to ensure that their child is not in an environment that represents a risk to them because of others with malicious intent or simply because it hasn’t been designed for them. Parents and guardians place limits on their children’s behaviour offline, who they can meet, where they go and how long they can stay out and they occasionally check that they are being compliant.  The online environment should be no different.  Parents should frequently engage their children about their online activity. That means checking where they go and what they do whilst there.  It may be seen as an invasion of privacy but it could prevent their child from being bullied, bullying others or being exposed to other forms of abuse.

Investing in a good relationship with the school is key. Teacher’s anti-bullying regulations can and should extend to include cyber bullying and schools in England and Wales have the authority to discipline pupils for bullying in line with their own disciplinary procedures (Education Act 2011), even when the bullying incident has not happened on school premises. Students and parents will need to know that the school can provide them with support if cyberbullying takes place in or out of school and many good schools offer counselling to those bullied.

Ultimately though, parents and guardians must recognise that support is the operative word. They must never abdicate their responsibility for their child’s safety and wellbeing to Internet service providers, teachers, social workers or the police.

Their child’s first line of defence and best provider of early help has to be them.

Parents can:

  • Maintain an open, encouraging and understanding relationship to ensure that children feel listened to and confident about discussing sensitive issues with you.
  • Try to take an active role in understanding what their child gets up to online.
  • Visit for the latest short videos, prompts, alerts and advice on safer internet & social media use.
  • If in doubt, contact the police who can offer advice and support. Or contact the school if you feel that the issue can be resolved, but use teachers as mediators rather than investigators or enforcers.

We work with a range of schools through our Safe and Secure Schools and Colleges initiative, where we deliver digital homework briefing days, social media policy development, crisis management and managing conflict in schools training as well as media training. We also offer a bespoke online safety centre and app, which is a one-stop-shop for schools regarding safeguarding and e-safety.




How fear of missing out is effecting young people’s health

Posted: September 15, 2015 | Jim Gamble QPM

More than a third of 12 to 15 year olds awake during the night at least once a week to use social media, a study suggests. Out of all the 848 pupils surveyed in schools across Wales, one out of every three was constantly tired as a result of this. Of the 412 twelve to thirteen year olds surveyed:

22% wake to use social media almost every night and a further 14% do so at least once a week.

Of the 436 fourteen to fifteen year olds surveyed 23% wake to use social media almost every night and a further 15% do so at least once a week.

The data, which was compiled by the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods, was presented to the British Educational Research Association conference at Queen’s University today. Study author Dr Kimberley Horton, from Cardiff University, said: “Having a regular wake-time and using social media during the night appear to be more important in determining whether a young person is always tired during the day than the time they go to bed, how long they spend in bed and having a regular bedtime. “It seems very important to discourage adolescents from using social media during the night.”

This comes after another report revealed that young people are struggling to meet the 24-hour demands of their social media accounts. Glasgow University academics examined 467 teenagers about their usage of social media and their state of mind. It found that those who had a higher level of emotional investment in social media and who used it during the night were more likely to be depressed and anxious. This was due to the pressure that people felt to respond immediately to their notifications. Dr Cleland Woods said: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this.” “It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these. Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social-media use and well-being, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear.” The study was presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Manchester.

Both these studies are undoubtedly worrying and highlight the increasing fear of missing out that comes with using social media. Therefore, it must be the role of parents and care givers to have a frank discussion with their children about the effects that late nights have on their health. It should be stressed that switching off their devices at night will not be the end of the world and their social life will not instantly implode if they leave a notification unread until the next day.

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