Online child safety social enterprise welcomes visit from Wellbeing Economy secretary

22/01/2024
CyberSafe founder Annabel Turner and Cabinet Secretary Neil Gray. (Photo: Michal Wachucik / Abermedia

ABERDEEN-based CyberSafe Scotland, a social enterprise that works to protect children in Scotland and around the world from online exploitation, welcomed a visit from Neil Gray, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, this week.

The Minister met Annabel Turner, CyberSafe founder and barrister, who explained the training and support the social enterprise offers to schools and parents and their consultancy work with local authorities to protect children in Scotland from online harm and improve cyber safety outcomes.

Annabel established CyberSafe in 2021 with help from a £5000 grant award from Firstport, which manages the Scottish Government’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund. As a social enterprise, CyberSafe reinvests its profits to further its social aims.

Apart from meeting the CyberSafe team, Mr Gray also spoke to local deputy head teacher Beki Bennet, who talked about how the support and training from CyberSafe have helped her school better equip teachers and parents to recognise and protect children from online harms.

Online child abuse has increased sharply over the last few years. The safety of children online, particularly of vulnerable ones, is a growing area of concern.

In Scotland alone, there was a 511% increase in reports of online offending targeting children between 2015 and 2021. Between March 2022 and April last year, Police Scotland carried out 700 investigations, arrested 500 people, almost all of them men, and safeguarded 800 children.

And only last October, a report published by the Internet Watch Foundation found that predators can make thousands of new AI images of real child victims. In a single month, the IWF investigated 11,108 AI images which had been shared on a dark web child abuse forum. Of these, 2,978 were confirmed as images which breach UK law – meaning they depicted child sexual abuse.

Speaking after the visit, Annabel Turner said: “It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to highlight the work of Cybersafe Scotland. One of the greatest risks to children online is the gap between children and adults in the online space. Our work is dedicated to ensuring the experiences of children and young people are heard and understood and then used to drive progress. 

We see this as creating real opportunities for innovation across Scotland, we are hugely grateful for the support we have received from Firstport, Just Enterprise, Business Gateway and ONE.”

Gael Drummond, Firstport Chief Executive, said: “It was a pleasure to visit CyberSafe this week. Annabel and her team are doing an incredible job of educating teachers and parents on the threats children may face online and empowering young people to make safe and informed decisions when interacting with others online.

“Annabel is an inspiring social entrepreneur. She combines her skills and experience with her passion to make a positive impact, create worthwhile jobs, and earn a living. Women represent over 60% of successful awardees to the Social Entrepreneurs Fund, underlining women’s key role in creating a fairer, healthier, and more sustainable Scotland”.

More information about CyberSafe is available on their website. Details about the funding available through the Social Entrepreneurs Fund are available on the Firstport website.

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