Cornwall Prevent Partnership: helping parents protect children online

Cornwall has put emphasis on helping tackle dangerous internet use and has used an EU project to help parents keep their IT-savvy children safe. This case study forms part of our counter extremism resource.

Cornwall has put a big emphasis on helping tackle dangerous internet use. It has used an EU project to help parents keep their IT-savvy children safe. Prevent training is also being rolled out to groups such as local Scouts to ensure its impact is felt far-and-wide.

The internet is a common factor in radicalisation with evidence showing it plays a role in many of the cases that reach the Channel Panel stage.

Cornwall’s Prevent Partnership has responded by prioritising tackling worrying internet use as part of its drive.

Preventing Extremism Lead Steve Rowell explains: “Young people these days are extremely savvy with technology. They have access to smart phones and computers at home, and often know their way round the internet better than their parents.

“That creates problems if they are tempted to view things that have the potential to radicalise them. They are able to hide it from their parents and get around the standard security systems and parental controls that are available by using proxy servers and other methods.

“It is something we have been getting increasingly worried about. When young people are referred into Channel we are often finding the internet is a factor.

And it is not just older children that are affected. There was a case recently where an adolescent had been watching beheadings and child pornography and a much younger sibling was on the bed watching it too.”

Rowell says traditionally Cornwall has advised parents to take computers out of the bedrooms and only allow them to be used in communal areas. “This helps, but we wanted to do more.”

After investigating the issue further he was referred to the European Union’s Safer Internet Programme, which has produced an interactive guide to e-safety products.

The guide has been produced by a team of experts who have reviewed the products available and gives users the ability to tailor their searches depending on the devices that are being used, the age of the children and the operating system.

It also allows individuals to choose what sort of restrictions or safeguards they want to place on the internet use. For example, it can identify programmes that block, monitor or restrict everything from general web use to social media, video streaming and messenger.

Cornwall’s Prevent Partnership, a sub-group of the Safer Cornwall Partnership, has been using it for two months. “It’s great,” says Rowell. “It really allows you to choose the products that are most suitable.  “Some of them are free, but where there is a cost it is often only £20, £30 or £40.

We have been funding that for people referred to Channel. It is a small price to pay to help stop radicalisation.

“But we are also telling other parents and schools about it. It is something anybody can use. We want to get the word out.

“You can place quite tight restrictions, and then ease them as trust is built up. Sometimes the young person is a bit resistant, but the other option is to remove their internet access altogether which isn’t easy to achieve.”

As part of the push on e-safety, the Partnership has also been encouraging schools to use the opportunities they have to talk to parents about the issue.

Rowell says: “They have a captive audience at events such as school plays. We have had one recently where before the school play they had a half-hour session on e-safety. These are good opportunities.”

Like many areas, they have been supporting schools through WRAP training and general awareness raising. The sessions started in May and by the end of the year all 800 early years providers, schools and further education centres will have undergone the training.

This follows on from the training that has been provided to core partners in health, the probation service and among youth offending teams.

And next year the council plans to extend the offer out to groups involved in positive diversionary activities, such as local Scout, Guide and Cadet organisations.

Rowell says: “We are not a high priority area for Prevent so we do not get all the extra funding that is available to some places. It means we have to work cleverly. We now have over 50 organisations involved in the Partnership.

“What we have tried to do is help each other. Take the work we will be carrying out with the uniformed groups such as the Scouts next year. It is about helping them recognise when they should be worried about someone and what help there is out there. But it may be that they can also help us by providing positive activities and support to people who need help.

“That is what our approach has been about. For example, we have worked with local faith groups which have provided help and guidance to people who have perhaps come to the wrong interpretation of the religion they were researching. It is that sort of partnership working that can make a huge difference.”