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Tagged In:  Career Advice, Technology
Safer Internet Day (SID) is nearly upon us, February 10th 2015 to be exact, and the popular and very worthwhile day will see a number of schools around the UK embark on their annual day of highlighting e-safety or internet dangers to their pupils and, if possible, staff and parents. 

However, in the 11 years that SID has been running, technology has changed, devices have evolved, and internet access, connectivity and portability has become 24/7. Despite these radical and technological advances it seems that many schools, charities, agencies and advisors are still giving the same message concerning e-safety, this has to change. Even the term e-safety is outdated, we should be highlighting 'social media & online interaction', which, if delivered correctly, allows empathy, acceptance and understanding.

How many schools, charities, agencies and advisors will be discussing the risks of using Team Speak or Putlocker, and how these and other voice over IP software and file sharing systems easily cause online ‘risk’ to be elevated to ‘danger’ and possible subsequent harm to children and young adults?  

When the Crown Prosecution Service stated, “The degree of planning and manipulation by (Lewis) Daynes is shocking and when you consider the young ages of perpetrator and victim, it stands out as one of the most cruel, violent and unusual cases we have dealt with”, was this an unprecedented crime or another case of the internet being used by an online child sexual psychopathic predator?

This horrific, tragic case, which has recently seen computer engineer Lewis Daynes jailed for life after admitting the murder of Breck Bednar, becomes even more unbelievable when you consider that Breck’s parents actually believed their son was in danger. They even confronted Daynes and reported their concerns to Surrey Police.  Despite their unease and proactive intervention, Daynes continued the ‘online grooming’ of their son, instructing Breck to tell his parents that he was sleeping at a friend’s house near their home in Caterham, Surrey. Breck travelled to see Daynes after months of talking in an online gaming forum.

The American Psychiatric Association subdivided child sex offenders into three groups: the moral conflict offender; the social conflict offender and the sociopathic offender. Sociopathic offenders do not empathise with the victim; they objectify victims to the point of using them as a tool for gratification and sexual satisfaction. These offenders live in a state of denial and have mastered their techniques to avoid detection. They are the rapists, the murderers and the predatory paedophiles. This shows that despite the parental intervention, the power Daynes had over Breck meant that Daynes would not stop. 

Daynes used many identified grooming manipulative methods. As a homosexual paedophile, Daynes would use websites and in particular gaming sites and online games mostly used by young boys, in this instance Call of Duty (PEGI 16 or 18+) & Battlefield (PEGI 17+). Daynes then used Team Speak (similar to Skype) to interact and direct message Breck. Daynes also gave Breck a mobile phone and sent instructions by text on the ‘lies’ Breck should tell his family so he would be able to visit Daynes’ home in Grays, Essex.

Daynes planned the murder of Breck, locating, interacting with, and grooming him before buying condoms, duct tape and syringes. He then arranged for Breck to travel to his Essex home, where he then bound his victim and stabbed him. Daynes then quite calmly rang Essex Police to hand himself in. Despite his openness with police, Daynes still managed time to clean his home, change his clothing and place all electronic devices, which may have incriminated him, into his bathroom sink full of water. It seems that Breck’s fate was sealed as soon as he met this online sociopathic predator.

Social media, social networking sites and gaming sites all have the propensity to be used by online sexual predators, so advice to parents, carers, educators and professionals who work with children is a priority, irrespective of the adults’ IT knowledge. Online safety is about understanding online behaviour, and  knowing the differences between ‘risk – danger – harm’. Everything we do online can have a degree of risk, however small, but not all risk leads to danger. Furthermore, if we are able to identify and minimise risk then this can inevitably reduce the escalation towards danger which, in turn, drastically reduces the possibility of harm.

Parents, carers and educators need good, up-to-date, relevant and accurate advice; this must evolve as technology and online behaviour changes. Gaming sites and online games PEGI (Pan European Gaming Information) will have given an age rating to all games, confirming that they are suitable for players over a certain age, these really should be adhered to. Many adults have a love-hate relationship with their child’s favourite online games. Games can encourage hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, team play, and friendships with peers. But there is a worry about online predators, cyber-bullies, online addiction, decreased performance in school, and exposure to violence and other adult content. Adults must become involved in their child’s online gaming life, including those involving headphones and a microphone. 

As a parent it's always a good idea to share in your child’s online experience, know what they're playing and how long they're playing it, limit screen time, and watch for signs that they are using the game as an escape from reality. Online gaming doesn't necessarily mean that there's something dangerous happening in your child's life – but it could.

Breck’s brave mother Lorin LeFave and father Barry Bednar did more than most, confronting Daynes and contacting the police. Both have a right to feel let down. Breck’s parents are demanding more financial support from the government, allowing for better training and better knowledge, therefore giving parents more confidence that the government cares. Lorin Lefave wants young people to imagine the safety message is coming directly from Breck. Unless advisors, charities and agencies are up-to-date with current technology, devices, apps and behaviour most advice will be outdated, and ignored.  

Jonathan Taylor is the course trainer for Sanctuary Training’s E-Safety course, for more details on this course or to book a place, please visit the website or call 0333 7000 028.

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