More than 2,000 children across Hertfordshire will be taught about online grooming and sexual exploitation in a project run by a county-based sexual health charity.
HertsAid has won a grant from the Big Lottery to fund the scheme, which will allow school pupils to watch a play based on the real-life experiences of online grooming victims.
The hard-hitting show, called Chelsea’s Choice, will be performed in front of 12 to 15 year olds in Herts schools – including Hemel Hempstead’s Roman Fields and Cavendish schools – from Monday through to June 10.
According to the charity, Chelsea’s Choice has already been seen by more than 100,000 young people throughout the UK and has proven highly successful in raising awareness of the issues surrounding child sexual exploitation.
HertsAid director Suzanne Bannister said: “This is a difficult subject to tackle, but it’s one we can’t ignore.
“The internet and social networking can make children vulnerable to grooming and children who are initially flattered by the attention of someone older can quickly end up in an abusive situation, out of their depth and scared.
“Chelsea’s Choice is hard-hitting, but it’s a really effective way of giving pupils the knowledge they need to protect themselves and their friends from this kind of exploitation.”
The charity, which also supports those living with HIV in the county, has also produced an advice document for parents on how to protect their children from being groomed online.
It includes information on setting up parental controls on internet devices and improving privacy settings on children’s social networking pages.
The advice also urges parents to alert young people to the risks of sharing pictures online, as the charity warns, some children are even blackmailed using personal pictures sent to boyfriends or girlfriends.
Visit hertsaid.co.uk for more information on protecting children online, or hertssafeguarding.org.uk for ways to report any concerns about children who may be being exploited.