License to surf the web

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Primary school in Drap opts into prevention programme teaching basic Internet caution

Children at a primary school in Nice are the first in the Côte d’Azur to undertake a course that will award them with an internet driver’s license. Aimed at protecting children from the dangers of the web, the programme was launched shortly after the arrest of a man in Marseille who was suspected of blackmailing about 40 young girls.

This week, Pierre Cauvin primary school, located in Drap, was the first in the Alpes Maritimes to implement a new programme aimed at teaching year six children, aged 9 to 11, as well as their parents, the basic rules of caution on the internet.

Announced on 12th December, the internet driver’s license programme was funded by insurance company AXA Prévention and put in place by the Gendarmerie Nationale, one of the two major law enforcement bodies in France. It is designed to prevent cybercrimes and protect children from the dangers of the web.

45% of children posting photos of them on the Internet do so without their parents knowledge

According to a 2013 study by Ifop, 38% of year six schoolchildren log onto the internet on a daily basis. That number climbs to 54% by the time they reach year seven.

Unlike the risks children face when out walking the streets, today’s parents weren’t exposed to the dangers of the internet when they were children. As a result, 25% of parents say they are not fully aware of the risks of the digital world, and 69% of them wish to be better informed, according to the Ifop study. Furthermore, 35% of parents find it difficult to control their children’s internet activity while 63% don’t know when their children are talking to strangers.

Though the new school project has been in preparation for some time and was formally announced last month, its launch in the Côte d’Azur comes days after the arrest of a man from Marseille who is suspected of hacking into the computers of about 40 young girls and blackmailing them.

Jamel Benyahia allegedly infected the girl’s computers with a Trojan Horse to take control of their webcam, and later threatened to release the footage if they did not strip naked for him, Nice Matin reports. Authorities have refused to comment on the case as the investigation is still on going.

The internet driver’s license programme teaches children to beware strangers on the internet, the same way they are careful around strangers in the streets. But children are also taught not to become cyber bullies themselves. As one of the rules states: “I will not intimidate anyone or give in to blackmail.”

“Children are both victims and perpetrators of cybercrimes,” a Gendarmerie Nationale spokesperson told The Riviera Times. “They sometimes pull pranks on their friends without measuring the consequences, or post photos on the internet that they later regret.”

The opt-in programme is available in 38 of France’s 101 departments and will be rolled out nationally if successful. Major Valérie Palini, in charge of the juvenile delinquency prevention brigade in the Alpes Maritimes, hopes to implement the internet driver’s license in 200 schools.

Given that Drap is in a priority security zone, or ZSP, Major Palini says she is pleased to show that law enforcement authorities work to prevent crimes in those difficult areas, instead of just punishing it.

Also published on the Riviera Times Online