TECHNOLOGY consumes our lives.

Walking down the street the majority of people you pass are swiping screens, snapping Selfies or chatting into mobile phones.

Growing up in an age when Sinclair Spectrums and Atari were all the rage, I admit to having had to embrace the emerging and advancing technology - something our young ones take easily in their stride.

As parents, particularly those of a similar generation, we may think we know everything about the latest online trends and traits, but young ones are probably one step ahead and, worryingly, parental controls on the gadgets in our homes may not be in place in the areas they visit.

Being aware of these issues is imperative, particularly when young ones are receiving gadgets as gifts giving them access to the online world. Naturally we want to protect our children so ask yourselves this - would you let your child cross the road without teaching them how to do so safely so they are aware of the dangers?

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

PCSO Izac Spencer’s suggestion of the road safety message we have all taught our children is a valid point - especially as we are discussing the very important issue of cyber awareness.

Those who consider themselves technology-savvy may think there is nothing new to learn - but the fast-changing pace of the virtual world means there is always something new, and it is up to us to try and keep up with it as much as we can - for the sake of our children.

We want to protect our young ones but the internet can feel like a place where parts of it are out of reach.

It’s a complex place and that is why I seized the opportunity to attend a cyber awareness evening at our local school.

Firstly, I believe in being forewarned and forearmed - to coin an old fashioned phrase ‘there is no point shutting the stable door once the horse has bolted.’

Prevention is the key to protection and the more we learn the more informed we are.

Initially set up as pilot scheme in 2015, the Bradford District Cyber Team, based at Lawcroft House police station in Bradford, comprises Izac, Sergeant Adam Taylor, Luke Carson, Samina Potrick, Samia Arif, Sergeant Rajwinder Driver, Joanne Cato and Michael Wright.

The team are using their expertise to help parents and schools to protect children through awareness raising initiatives and events which are insightful and educational.

During the event we were asked to identify familiar symbols - some were more familiar than others - but the idea wasn’t to expose our technological flaws, far from it, it’s to help us keep our kids safe online and that’s crucial.

PCSO Spencer encourages us all to take an interest in our children’s virtual world; to think about what they are doing online whether uploading photos, posting on social media or sending a message. Also consider potential repercussions.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Working predominantly with primary school children ranging from seven to 11, the Cyber team visit more than 150 schools in the city and district as part of their valuable work but, as Sergeant Taylor and PCSO Spencer explain, they are keen to get parents involved so they can equip them with the knowledge and expertise to help them keep their children safe online.

“It is the fastest growing crime type,” says Sergeant Taylor, who explains how the team are well informed of new and emerging trends so they can raise awareness among young people.

Sexting is an example of the type of crimes they are seeing. So is the sharing of indecent images - something the team are trying to prevent as part of their awareness work.

It seems incomprehensible that young people do this. They may naively think their snap will only be seen by the people they share it with - yet the ripple effect from it being shared beyond that network doesn’t bear thinking about.

“It can snowball into something far worse,” says Sergeant Taylor.

This also exposes the threat of online grooming - the repercussions are endless which is why the experts are working hard on prevention - raising awareness before it becomes a problem.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Live streaming is another area of concern as young ones often think because it is live the photo will then disappear but, as we know with social media, the evidence remains long after it has been sent in screen shots and shares.

Awareness is imperative and the team are pro-actively working to get the message across. “This is a huge investment for the district,” says Serg Taylor, referring to the team which he hopes to expand to work with businesses.

Ryan Lewis, Headteacher at Princeville Primary School, Listerhills, explains e-safety is part of the National Curriculum and staff and parents value visits from the Cyber team as it helps them keep abreast of the latest social media trends.

Claire Partington, computing lead at Farfield Primary School says Cyber Awareness sessions were introduced due to the amount of children having access to the internet and the ‘ever-growing risk of danger in the virtual world.’

“We feel that our pupils need to be conscious of this when accessing apps, social media, playing online games etc. “

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Claire explains the sessions benefit pupils because many apps and online games ‘can appear harmless – and often are harmless – but children can be at risk of being groomed, cyber bullied or encouraged to do other inappropriate things.’

“For a lot of our pupils, they were unaware of the potential dangers the cyber-world can lead to before we had the sessions run by West Yorkshire Police.”

“We need to let our pupils know how fantastic the internet is but also to ensure they are aware of the potential online dangers, and what to do if they are ever concerned.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, says: “Tackling cyber crime and keeping our communities safe online is a priority.”

He praised the work of The Bradford Cyber PCSOs in raising awareness of what cyber crime is and how to protect yourself and your loved ones with a particular focus on young people.

“We’ve all heard stories or know people that have been affected by cyber crime, whether that’s someone stealing financial details online, online harassment, or the recent ransomware attacks on the health service and businesses for example.

“A really important tool in the fight against this crime is having the awareness of how to keep safe and take preventative action, and that’s where the Bradford Cyber PCSOs come in. They are having a phenomenal impact in Bradford and across West Yorkshire, and I’d like to say a big thank you for their hard work and dedication.”