Covid-19 gives online safety messages renewed importance on first anniversary of Breck’s Last Game
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Nearly 3.4 million people have watched the short film, Breck’s Last Game online since it was first released to the public one year ago. The online safety messages it contains are now more important than ever as school closures mean young people have added temptation to spend long periods of time online.
Breck’s Last Game is the short film about Breck Bednar, the 14-year-old boy who was murdered by a man he met on a gaming site. It was made as a result of an innovative collaboration between four police forces – Northamptonshire, Leicestershire Essex and Surrey – and was initially rolled out in secondary schools in the four force areas before being released to the public in April 2019.
The film was made to raise awareness of online grooming and carries an important message – do you really know who your online friends are? Undoubtedly, this message is now enhanced because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Assistant Chief Constable James Andronov said: “We are in unprecedented times. As schools close and people are confined to their homes due to the global coronavirus pandemic, they are using the internet and online services more now than perhaps ever before.
“This can be a lifeline for many but young people need to be warned there are unfortunately a small number ready to exploit the situation and manipulate and groom them – it’s crucial we don’t lose sight of that.
“We are aware, for example, well-meaning people are encouraging young people to set up ‘pen-pal’ style social groups online but unfortunately young people must approach these with caution. Even in the face of a global pandemic, a small minority will take advantage of the situation to approach young people online with a view to grooming them.
“I urge people who haven’t watched Breck’s Last Game to do so and to digest its messages, and I’d also like to take this opportunity to warn anybody who thinks this is the time to exploit children to expect a knock at their door from one of my officers with a warrant for their arrest.”
Breck Bednar’s mother, Lorin LaFave appears as herself in the film and said today: “It’s a year since Breck’s Last Game was released but it seems much longer than a year ago to me as so much has happened in our world since then.
“With children now being off school and limited in their outside activities, the natural progression might be that they spend more time online socialising and gaming with friends and inevitably for some, strangers.
“Some of these strangers will be trying to groom and exploit our children, to possibly encourage them to do things that could be harmful to them, so now more than ever, we need to educate young people in an engaging and empowering way using Breck’s story, so that they recognise signs of grooming, know where to go for help, remember that friends online are not the same as school friends and to think though our tagline, #DoYouReallyKnowYourOnlineFriends ? In these trying times, don’t let a predator build a relationship with your child online, education is key.”
Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “The online world is a fabulous way for people to stay in touch during the current health emergency but now more than ever, we have to make sure our young people know that it is also filled with risk. This is not a time for us to let our guard down and Breck’s Last Game serves as a strong reminder of the need to educate our children to be cautious on line and remember that people are not always what they claim to be.”
Find out more information about the film, how to spot the signs of online grooming and what to do you you’re concerned about a child you know.