Around 1,200 York youngsters have watched a specially commissioned drama which launched an online safety campaign in the city.
The NSPCC, working with City of York Safeguarding Children Partnership and theatre group NK Theatre Arts, began the campaign with the play and a Q&A at St Peter’s School this week.
Year 5 and Year 6 pupils from Copmanthorpe Primary, Haxby Road Primary, Wigginton Primary, Lakeside Primary, Poppleton Road Primary, Dunnington Primary, Knavesmire Primary and St Peter’s watched the performances over two days.
In age-appropriate play The Net, the audience follows the story of Sam. She’s a popular girl who believes she is tech savvy, but her life changes when she begins sharing images on platforms inappropriate for her age.
Each performance of the play is followed by an interactive discussion with the cast to help the children engage with the content and consider what Sam could do differently.
Jeremy Walker, head master of St Peter’s School, York, said: “We were proud to host the two-day launch of this important campaign to help more than a thousand children from across York learn more about the dangers of the online world.
“By working together with City of York Safeguarding Children Partnership, the NSPCC, talented NK Theatre Arts and everyone who helped create this essential campaign, we can promote practical safety tips to keep young people safe online and empower them to make safer choices in real time.”
The number of crimes involving online child abuse images has risen nationally in recent years, and in 2021/22, North Yorkshire Police recorded 319 of these crimes – an increase of 12% since 2016/17.
Helen Westerman, Head of Local Campaigns for the NSPCC, said the campaign had got off to a good start and would continue with workshops and social media clips about online safety issues which will be useful to children and parents across the city.
Where to get help
Here’s where children – and adults concerned about children – can go for help
Helen said: “It was wonderful to see how engaged the children from schools across York were at the performances this week, and I’m sure they will have taken some vital messages home as a result.
“We know that children of primary school age in the city have received inappropriate contacts through a number of social media apps and games. While these were isolated incidents, they show how important it is that everyone plays their part in helping to keep the children of York safe online.”
Another day of performances has is being organised. Meanwhile, the play has been made available to schoolchildren and families who were unable to attend in a special online version complete with workshop resources to aid discussions after viewing.
Martin Kelly, City of York Council’s corporate director of children and education, said: “Online safety is a real concern for parents and young people and I’m delighted that this production will share safety messages in an easily relatable and accessible format for pupils across the city.”
Short videos outlining topics and advice about online safety will be shared through social media in York in coming weeks, and anyone wishing to find out more about how to stay safer online can visit the NSPCC’s Online Safety Hub.