A campaign is being launched to help protect children from cyber-crime, with a series of pop-up workshops at Stretford Mall, to pass on top tips about how to avoid bullies, abusers, hackers and viruses.
Parents and carers from across Trafford are being urged to attend the free advice sessions being run by gurus from O2, in conjunction with the NSPCC.
Experts will be on hand in the shopping centre’s main event space to pass on the latest tips about how to keep children safe on-line, including how to avoid bullies, hackers, downloading viruses, having unwanted conversations with strangers, and viewing adult content.
They will also be able to answer questions about everything from how to safely play popular games like Minecraft, to being “share aware” on social media.
Educating parents and carers is vital, given that 90% of children aged five to 15 are actively online with 40% owning their own tablet or iPad, says James Mann, store manager at O2 in Stretford Mall.
The first cyber-security pop-up event will be held at Stretford Mall from 10am – 4pm on Saturday February 10.
Anyone attending will also be able to get help setting up parental controls and learning how to make a mobile phone safe for a child.
James, 24, and a dad-of-one from Bolton, has worked for O2 for two years. He said: “A lot of children now own a tablet or an iPad and they’re getting younger and younger. Of those children who have their own tablet 15% are aged three and four.
“Having had them as gifts for Christmas this is now the peak time to provide parents with the advice they need to keep them safe.
“This is the time when it really matters. It’s important that as parents and adults we take responsibility for making sure children do not find anything inappropriate online.
“A lot of parents don’t know how easy it can be for children to access inappropriate material.
“Take YouTube for instance. If you leave them on it they can access all sorts within five or ten minutes.”
He added: “What we want is to give them the tools to prevent that from happening. For example there is a kids version of YouTube which they may not know about.
“There are settings that prevent them from making calls or using apps you don’t want them to. With Apple for instance, if your child is using an iPad you can get a message sent to your iPhone requesting permission when they try to download something.
“If you’re not happy with it, you can decline it. We’ll also be able to help people look in the right places for content.
“You might think some games look appropriate for kids but when they’re downloaded and played they’re not.”
James added: “We’ll be providing all this kind of information out on the mall throughout the day.
“Hopefully it will drive footfall to the centre and in the process provide crucial advice to parents which would be win-win for everyone.”
The aim is to run the on-line safety sessions will quarterly, as part of a new programme of monthly events being run by 02 at Stretford Mall.
Future dates will also be announced for sessions demonstrating new apps, as well as advice for the older generation and people with disabilities.
Stretford Mall centre manager Gareth Wilkins said: “We’re delighted to lend our support to this important and worthwhile initiative.
“With so many children now using the internet it is vital that we, as adults, understand the dangers they face and equip ourselves with the necessary tools to keep them safe.
“With many children receiving tablets and mobile phones as Christmas presents this is the perfect time for parents to come down to the mall and learn more about cyber security.
“I’m sure the workshop will be a success and we are looking forward to O2 hosting more events throughout the year.”
As a parent himself, James was keen to play his part in providing people with the necessary tools to keep their children safe when using their tablets.
He said: “As a store we feel really strongly about this. We see it as important community work and to get people learning.
“I’ve got a three-year-old boy myself, so I feel really passionate about it. I’m lucky because I understand a lot about the subject.
“My son Oscar has a tablet and I’ve been able to change the settings so I always know what he’s doing and that he’s safe at all times.
“If we can pass that knowledge on to parents who don’t know about the pitfalls then that’ll be fantastic. That’s the ultimate aim of the workshop.”
James, who has been store manager at the Stretford Mall branch since October 2017, said: “The plan is to have a desk in the mall for people to walk up to us at anytime and receive the advice or information they need.
“We’ll have our O2 gurus out there and we hope to make it a regular thing, particularly when it comes to child safety online.
“We’ll also look to do workshops where people can learn about new technologies.
“It’s important that the subjects are topical and current. We’d like to try and give people experience of something they haven’t tried before.”
O2 work with the NSPCC to help protect children from dangers they could face browsing online or through the use of social media.
The NSPCC has developed an initiative called ‘Share Aware’ to help parents and carers make informed choices about the social networking sites and apps their children use.
Anyone is welcome to attend the first pop-up on-line safety workshop at Stretford Mall, from 10am – 4pm on Saturday, February 10.
For more information about Stretford Mall visit stretfordmall.co.uk or find the centre on Facebook or Twitter: @stretfordmall