School gets Facebook to bar pupils

West View primary school headteacher Andy Brown.
West View primary school headteacher Andy Brown.
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A CONCERNED headteacher has had his pupils banned from Facebook to protect them from internet perverts.

Staff from West View Primary School, in Hartlepool, contacted bosses at the social networking site after learning that pupils from the Davison Drive-based school had set up accounts on the website.

Facebook’s terms and conditions state that users have to be at least 13 to set up an account and profile page.

But it has emerged that youngsters have been setting up profiles using false dates of birth while using computers at home.

Headteacher Andy Brown contacted Facebook to report the youngsters and pupils logged on only to see their accounts had been deleted.

Mr Brown’s actions may not have gone down well with the pupils, but the vast majority of parents and child safety experts have backed his decision.

The school took action without first informing parents.

But one 35-year-old mum from the West View area, whose 11-year-old son’s account was deleted, told the Mail: “I think it’s a good thing, you don’t know what they are getting up to online and I didn’t want him to have a Facebook account anyway.

“The kids aren’t happy about it, but the school obviously wants them to stay safe.

”They still have access to other sites though, which is still a worry.”

Another mum, 31-year-old Susan Measor has two children at West View Primary School and said her son was one of the children who had their Facebook account deleted.

But she claims he uses the site to contact his family, and had no problems in quickly restoring his account with different user details.

The mum-of-three said: “My son was distraught when he found out his account had been deleted.

“He speaks to his dad on there and other family members so I made him another account.

“We had to say he was a bit older so he could get an account.

“I think it’s harmless if he is only talking to friends and family which I know he is.

“He knows what he should and shouldn’t be doing.

“I would rather have him sat on that inside that walking around outside all day.”

The move to safeguard the youngsters follows the murder of Darlington teenager Ashleigh Hall, who was found dead on farmland near Sedgefield after going to meet a man she contacted on facebook in October 2009.

Peter Chapman, 32, originally from Stockton, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 35 years after admitting the kidnap, rape and murder of the teenager.

Mr Brown added: “The safety of our pupils is paramount and the tragic death of Darlington College student Ashleigh Hall is a constant reminder to us all of the risks and dangers that exist for children when they have contact with people on the internet.

“Furthermore, under the Facebook rules, no young person of primary school age is permitted to use Facebook anyway.

“Our school staff are very vigilant and whenever they hear of any of our pupils using Facebook, we immediately contact facebook to advise it of the correct age of the pupil and to ask that it cancels the individual’s account.

“We have done this on several occasions, and Facebook has taken immediate action.

“We will continue to do everything we can to make our pupils aware of the risks of having contact with people online and to help them stay safe when using the internet.”

Jim Murdoch, business manager of the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board, said: “We fully endorse such prompt and pro-active steps being taken to help protect our children.

“This also serves as a timely reminder that children under the age of 13 are not allowed to open a Facebook account.”

Anyone who has concerns about youngsters using the internet, or who would like advice, can call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit www.CEOP.police.uk