Project aims to give free online safety lessons to children in Barking and Dagenham

PUBLISHED: 06:30 01 August 2017

Actors could be set to visit schools to promote online safety (picture: Natalie Smith)

Actors could be set to visit schools to promote online safety (picture: Natalie Smith)

Natalie Smith

Free lessons in online safety could be given to 1,200 children in Barking and Dagenham if a crowdfunding project led by Arc Theatre is successful.

The Dagenham-based theatre aims to raise a total of £6,480 for its Broadcast Junior project.

If this is achieved the council will provide financial support by matching the donations as part of a new charitable initiative to help popular crowdfunding projects.

The sessions will feature actors from the theatre playing teenagers who find themselves in potentially dangerous situations brought about by irresponsible online behaviour.

One scenario shows a girl going to meet a boy she met online. The characters will discuss the possible threats and the audience, comprised of year five and six pupils, will be asked to reflect on the situation she has found herself in.

Arc Theatre education director Natalie Smith said: “I’d say at least 95 per cent of the pupils I’ve met know more about the internet than their parents so this is a threat they need people to educate them about.

“I think years five and six is a good time to try and catch the pupils, before they go to secondary school. But some children in year three already mobile phones and they aren’t just watching YouTube videos.”

Childwise research this year suggested children use the internet for an average of three hours a day, with one in eight saying they spend more than six hours online daily.

Also, 41pc of children aged eight to 18 don’t have any parental controls on their home internet connection.

Natalie is optimistic about meeting their target, especially after appearing on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program last week to talk about the campaign.

Natalie said: “Children definitely need to be taught about online safety but it’s not something we relish organising as a company - but budget cuts mean it’s hard for councils and schools to organise it themselves so it’s necessary for other organisations to get involved.

“I’m super confident we’ll hit our target.”

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