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Cyber Champions enlisted in schools to spread word about internet crime

Merseyside Police has enlisted the help of a team of teenage ’Cyber Champions’ in schools across Merseyside to help spread the word about internet crime.

An event will be held Wednesday May 8, at Merseyside Police HQ to launch the scheme, attended by school pupils and the latest Cyber Champions who are being trained to educate fellow students on cybercrime.

The initiative promotes digital literacy and e-safety and is supported by professional services company KPMG. Similar initiatives have been adopted in other areas of the country where thousands of children, parents and senior citizens have participated in workshops.

PCSOs have already been joined by specialists from KPMG, visiting schools across Merseyside to carry out workshops for children and their parents and guardians about staying safe online. Each school then designates their own ‘Cyber Champions’.

As well as helping other pupils, the role gives the Cyber Champions a sense of responsibility and the opportunity to develop their own interpersonal skills, and gain knowledge in cyber security – crucial skills valued by future employers.

Reports of cybercrime have increased by more than 80% in the last three years in Merseyside – from April 2016 to March 2017 there were 2,586 cybercrimes reported, from April 2017 to March 2018 there were 3,474 and in the last 12 months, from April 2018 to March 2019, there were 4,744.

Detective Chief Inspector Helen Bennett, from Merseyside Police’s Digital Forensics Team, said: “We know that reports of cybercrime have increased in recent years. This is in part due to increased awareness of the issue but the rise in use of apps and social media platforms means that there are more ways than ever for criminals to try to exploit people on the internet.

“That is why it is so important to ensure young people are equipped to avoid becoming the next victim.

This is a great initiative and is a win-win for all involved. The young Cyber Champions themselves get to develop skills that will set them in really good stead for the future; their fellow pupils will get the knowledge to prevent themselves from becoming victims of cybercrime; and we as a police force have seen some really important messages spread widely by an enthusiastic group of young volunteers.

“By engaging with schools we will also hear about any trends about youngsters that our Cyber Crime officers might need to keep an eye on.”

DCI Bennett added: “In the workshops, we discuss the different online channels, social media platforms and smart phone apps that young people use. And as the children themselves are often up to speed with the latest emerging trends and new apps, they are very well placed to identify any issues and causes for concern.

“The workshops are interactive and show some videos about the information children should avoid putting online as part of their digital footprint, and how to stay safe.

“We also broach important topics like cyber bullying, age restrictions for gaming and social media sites, security and privacy settings followed by sharing some further sources of support.”

Charlie Caldwell, from Carmel College, has just been made a Cyber Champion.

He said: “I am really looking forward to becoming a Cyber Security Champion as it will provide me with future opportunities.

“With this contribution to helping children stay safe online it will show my future employers that I am committed and willing to step outside of my comfort zone.

“Many people will recognise this as a very great achievement which can help me when seeking a job in an IT or even Business region. Helping children staying safe online provides me with comfort, that we can prevent children from facing any difficulties or security issues online in the future.”

Johnny Lau, from Carmel College, who has also recently been made a Cyber Champion said: “I was delighted that this opportunity was given. I think it’s a good opportunity with today’s social climate for people to know how to be safe.”

If you are interested in children at your school becoming Cyber Champions, please email: digitalpcso@merseyside.pnn.police.uk