Editor’s Comment: We must protect kids from sexual predators

Roger Hawes

Roger Hawes

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This week’s front page story told by the father of a victim of a predatory paedophile has once again highlighted the real dangers social media can inflict on our children.

Whilst I am a keen supporter of the worldwide web and the benefits of communication it brings to society I have realised that we are fast reaching a point where checks , controls and balances must be put in place.

Unlike five years ago when I demanded the family laptop could only be used in sight of an adult and at certain times, the influx of tablets and iPhones into the household’s way of life have meant these safeguards are all but redundant.

Of course the mandatory software is in place to stop access to unsavoury websites but how do we as parents control the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter which are all accessible on the move?

A new generation of kids as young as 10 are completely hooked into social media, choosing to have a big friendship circles often from the isolation of home.

The unnerving story of how girls as young 12 were groomed using mobile phones and social media by a baby-faced predator, himself just 22 years-old, under the noses of caring parents is shocking.

I have a young daughter and two other older teenagers and I know that it is virtually impossible, even if I wanted to, to track their use of social media.

Instead I have to rely on their sensible and educated approach to its use.

However I still fear for my youngest and strongly believe it is time to put the brake on open social media for under 16 year-olds.

There must be checks and balances available for worried parents wanting to protect children. Hardly a day goes by without some horrifying report on social media abuses from cyber bulling to blatent sexual grooming.

Whilst the perpetrator of this recent Aylesbury crime, Billy Byrne, may well face a jail sentence for his disgusting actions he has left families damaged in his wake.

I echo the calls by this victim’s dad to demand Facebook to filter inappropriate content for its younger users and where necessary block information and pictures entirely.

Social media may well have come of age but our children have not and they deserve far better protection.

Education at home and in schools is one thing now we need to cut off the abuse at source.