Online attacks 'devastating' lives of young people, cyber-safety summit told

Young girl lying on carpet using laptop computer
Image caption Enhancing online safety for young people is a key priority of the Scottish government

"Brutal" and "abhorrent" online abuse, grooming, bullying and blackmail are devastating the lives of some young people, it has been warned.

The issues are the focus of summit at the Scottish Parliament on keeping youngsters safe online.

It comes after a teenager from Fife committed suicide when he was targeted by internet blackmailers.

The Scottish government said education was key to handling cases of anonymous comments and targeted abuse.

During the summit, members of Young Scot are meeting government experts, police, children's organisations, voluntary sector representatives and business organisations.

Criminal act

The event follows a number of recent cases of online abuse with tragic consequences.

In July, 17-year-old Daniel Perry, from Dunfermline, took his own life after blackmailers demanded thousands of pounds having tricked him into thinking he was chatting with a US girl his own age online.

Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell said: "We've seen too much devastation caused by the abusive use of the internet.

"In some cases, it was brutally planned and an obvious, abhorrent criminal act. But for many people, the anonymity online allows them to forget that their actions and comments can be incredibly damaging to those on the receiving end.

"We need to educate parents and children about the importance of knowing what to do and where to go if something goes wrong online to stop abuse and prevent tragic consequences."

'Working together'

Although not all aspects of internet safety are devolved, the Scottish government believes it can still help by trying to ensure child internet safety is properly recognised in education, policing and child protection policies.

Minister for Learning Dr Alasdair Allan said: "Apart from teaching children about the dangers and impact of inappropriate online behaviour, we often see the results of any online bullying play out in the school environment, which can have an effect on not just the pupil affected, but their classmates and school as a whole."

The department for Children and Young people has given all schools advice on responsible use of phones, tablets and other mobile devices, while a new web resource is helping schools review and develop how they teach online safety.

Dr Alasdair Allan added: "This summit offers a valuable opportunity to acknowledge the steps we've already taken, look to the future and acknowledge the fact that we can and will tackle this problem by working together.

"Schools, parents, those at the summit today and the media all have a role to play in ensuring our children can go online without fear of bullying or abuse."

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