Switched-on Denbighshire youngsters pioneer online safety scheme

Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones has joined internet savvy youngsters helping their classmates stay safe online, thanks to a pioneering scheme launched by an ex-policeman.

Ysgol Llywelyn is the first in Denbighshire to sign up to the eCadets scheme, where youngsters advise other pupils on how to protect themselves online.

The children have now asked Assembly Member Ms Jones to be their honorary eCadet and join them in discovering how to stay safe online.

“I am delighted to be the patron of the eCadet scheme at Ysgol Llywelyn, which is the first school in Denbighshire to take on this exciting initiative. I believe children and adults should always feel safe when using modern technology such as social media,” said Ms Jones.

“I look forward to learn some new skills from the pupils involved.”

The scheme, which runs in 120 schools across England and Wales, was the brainchild of former policeman Henry Platten and his wife Danielle, who already run successful company eTreble9 from their base in Flintshire, advising about online security for companies and individuals.
Every school that signs up to the scheme aims to have up to eight pupils trained as eCadets, who will advise fellow students how to protect themselves when browsing the internet, using social media on smart phones and tablets, or playing online games.

The pupils also take the message home – making parents and other family members aware of the need for online safety, whether it’s ensuring passwords are secure or discussing the pitfalls of making friends in the virtual world.

Henry said: “As well as keeping youngsters safe, the eCadet scheme has been designed help schools meet targets in relation to online safety, health and wellbeing, literacy and numeracy and personal development.

“We know that children can find it difficult to talk openly to parents or teachers about an issue like this but they are much more comfortable turning to their friends and peers for advice.

“We are there in the background to provide support and advice, providing a safety net should something come to light that needs adult intervention.

“Our approach is very much not to frighten them, not to scare them, just to show them how to use it safely to give them that confidence, to give them those skills to be digital citizens, and really to live their lives safely online so that they get the most from it,” added Henry
Ysgol Llywelyn IT co-ordinator Nathan Jones works with the eCadets, who are presently topping the North Wales league of schools in using the scheme.

“We know that many of the children regularly go on social media using their own accounts or those of their parents, or older siblings,” said Mr Jones.

“Many also use X-Boxes, and play online – so they can make friends with anybody around the world, without knowing who they really are. We wanted to make them aware of the dangers of being online and teach them how to stay safe.

“Being part of eCadets will help address these issues, and it’s important knowledge they will take with them as they move up into secondary school and beyond

“We find that newsletters and school meetings are not always the most effective way to raise these issues with parents – under eCadets the children themselves will be able to talk to their family members and their friends and siblings about online safety. They can also raise any concerns they have direct with Henry at eCadets.”

Henry has taken care to ensure the initiative is part of the computing curriculum, meets the needs of inspections by schools watchdog Estyn, and is closely linked to PHSE and well-being requirements.

To ensure it reaches out into the school’s community, there are now also eParents and eGovernors alongside the eCadets, while in the third year of the scheme a business mentoring project gets underway.

Henry quit his job with Cheshire Police to launch online security firm eTreble9, which helps businesses and individuals protect their assets online – and eCadets was a spin-off, as the couple realised that youngsters also needed to be kept just as safe. He launched the scheme on World Internet Safety Day in March and has seen it spread through schools massively in just a few months, often as teaching staff recommend the scheme to colleagues elsewhere.

He added: “At the last count there were 367 social media sites available on the internet and that number is rising by the day. The eCadets are select groups of children who will help their classmates to stay safe when using these sites and playing online games.

“The eCadets are given access to a secure area of our eTreble9.com website where tasks are set for them to complete in connection with internet safety. When they have successfully completed a task they are given a reward sticker to put in the eCadets passport they are issued with.

“They also compete in an eCadets league against their counterparts, not just in Wales but the whole of the country as the scheme is rolled out across the UK.

“We think this scheme is vital because so many children now use the internet and social media sites and they must be able to do it as safely as possible.”