Online grooming: are your children In danger?

17 February 2020 marks the 6th anniversary of the murder of Caterham teenager, Breck Bednar. Breck was just 14 years old when 18-year-old Lewis Daynes used an online game to groom Breck, before brutally stabbing him to death at his flat in Grays, Essex.

Breck's family was determined to stop something like this from happening again, setting up The Breck Foundation in order to warn other youngsters and their parents of the online dangers.

Breck's mother, Lorin LaFave, said:

"Setting up a charity is the second hardest thing that I have ever done, after losing my son to an online predator. The 17 February will mark six years since my world was horridly robbed of my clever, handsome, kind boy, so brutally taken from us."

Lorin concedes that it is important to remember that children must have boundaries, but also need education to know how to deal with issues which they may face online. Identifying the warning signs are paramount. Breck was not given advice because his school were not teaching their students about grooming or online predators. His teachers saw warning signs but did not think he was vulnerable, as he was a clever, well-behaved boy. His friends did not report or raise what they had seen, as they did not know how to.

There were many times in Breck's life where an intervention could have made a difference to the outcome of his story. Lorin founded The Breck Foundation in the hope that no other family would suffer the same ordeal that she and her family have been through. 

Lorin and her team of volunteers have created a platform to educate others on digital resilience, including an event called NoTech4Breck Day, where families, workplaces and schools are encouraged to participate by having a day away from technology, to talk about the issues, learn and engage in a different way, get cyber-balance, and help raise funds to continue the work of educating and empowering young people to keep safer online.

"We challenge you to choose any day in February to have a remarkable day off technology, believe me, it will be memorable. No using your Satnav, no taking photos of your food, no selfies, and especially no Google assistance, this day will stand out from others! This will be a day of bonding with everything and everyone away from technology. Parenting in a digital age has created additional challenges which we need to overcome to ensure our children are safe."

The charity has now delivered hard-hitting presentations, using Breck's story, to over 20,000 students, 4,000 parents and 7,000 safeguarding professionals. Lorin believes that had her son seen this kind of talk, he would still be alive today.

For more information, visit The Breck Foundation.

The first ever Breck Ball will take place in London on 28 February, on what would have been Breck's 21st birthday. Details of this event can be found on page 11 of this month's paper.

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