A leading child safety official in Yorkshire has claimed many parents are failing to spot key signs of predators despite a “revolution” in awareness of paedophiles preying on youngsters.
David Niven, who chairs the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board and is also a former chairman of the British Association of Social Workers, said he had noticed that schools had evolved over the years and there had been a groundshift in knowledge and understanding of the issue.
After attending a safeguarding children conference in Leeds, he said there had been a particular sea-change in the way schools had adopted a collective approach to tackling a problem.
“Over 40 years involved in child protection, that more than anything is something that has changed considerably,” he said.
However, he added problems were continuing when it came to the education of parents and “assumptions” were still being made.
Giving an example, he said a police officer friend who was working in Bristol spotted an advert in a local newspaper recruiting players for an under-12 football team.
He said: “He instinctively felt something was off about this and went along and found out that the guy there that had 14 children sorted out to play was a convicted paedophile.
“Not one parent had approached this guy. Not one said ‘who are you?’ or did a background check.
“Just think about that. For me that sums up an awful lot of a small pocket of the community and the problems we will constantly have until we transform education.”
Mr Niven said the solution did not have to be “overpowering”, involving wrapping children in cotton wool, and could form as much a part of family life as road safety, adding: “There is no reason why child safety can’t be as equally important.”
Drawing attention to naïvety when it comes to social media, he recalled a past conference attended by the heads of Facebook and Google. He said: “The head of Facebook unashamedly stood up in front and said ‘do you know how many false Facebook accounts exist? 18m easy’.”
He added that he was told thousands of parents were falsifying their child’s age so they could join the site, despite children under the age of 13 not being allowed an account.
He said he believed this stemmed back to “lazy babysitting” and children were just left to their own devices on their tablets, phones and computers in their bedrooms as it kept them entertained.
“They don’t realise what’s going on in that bedroom, but it’s us that really should be passing this message on. So whether it’s social workers, teachers, voluntary-sector staff, at least say ‘look, this is what could happen. You are thinking slightly wrongly here, you’ve got to be more aware’.”
He added that parents should ensure their Facebook pages were private when posting pictures of their children as he knew paedophiles were often tasked with sourcing thousands of images of youngsters in order to access paedophile rings.
“There is all sorts that goes on that people don’t realise because for some reason they want the whole world to see pictures of their children,” he said.
Using an examples of ‘provocative change’ such as the Baby P case, in which a boy died after being abused despite being know to council and NHS staff, he said that to avoid this schools had to continue to be on the front line. “We are the advocates and the educators,” he said.