Heads warning over new internet craze

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HEADTEACHERS in Hartlepool have joined forces to warn parents of the dangers of their children using the internet.

School leaders across town have alerted each other after an adult, pretending to be an eight-year-old boy, made inappropriate comments to a child after befriending them on the latest internet craze called Moshi Monsters.

Steve McDonnell, head at Hart Primary School, became aware of the incident, which did not involve a Hartlepool pupil, and shared the information with colleagues.

Moshi Monsters is a free online game for children where they can adopt a monster and look after it.

It has 34 million users worldwide and half the country’s children are said to have adopted their own online monster.

Mr McDonnell said: “Fortunately, the child’s parents quickly became aware of the situation and reported the matter to the appropriate authorities.

“I am not aware of any such incidents involving this website in Hartlepool. But I had no hesitation in sharing my information with all the other schools in the town and I am making Hart Primary parents aware of it too.

“When it comes to young people using the internet, parents need to be vigilant at all times to ensure their children’s safety.”

Holy Trinity Primary School, in Seaton Carew, quickly issued a warning to parents in their last newsletter.

Headteacher Amanda Baines said: “The tragic death of Darlington College student Ashleigh Hall is a constant reminder of the dangers that exist for children when they have contact with people on the internet and we would urge parents to be on guard at all times.”

Moshi Monster, owned by British gaming company Mind Candy, lets members make friends with other users and leave messages on their pages.

Rebecca Newton, chief community and safety officer for Mind Candy, said many parents, grandparents and relatives also use Moshi Monsters.

She said: “The age, gender and country of any Moshi user is evident when adding someone to your friends tree.

“No-one can be added without the user seeing the general information of the requester.

“We continue to hope parents oversee their children’s online activities.”

She added the website uses the most sophisticated software available which monitors everything exchanged on the site and alerts its safety team of anything suspicious.

The spokesman added users can also report incidents by pressing a button on the site which goes straight through to its team of experts.