The Dot Com and Watch Over Me resources have been created with children and young people in partnership with the police over the past 15 years.
The primary school resources which were paper-based journals to empower children to learn how to speak up about issues which frighten or worry them were first funded by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir John Stevens.
Sharon Doughty, the creator of Dot Com, was a television presenter and crime reporter who worked with the Commissioner to launch the Enough is Enough Domestic Violence Strategy in London.
Sharon, who was the victim of violence and abuse in her childhood, has been an adviser to the police nationally since 2000 and decided to speak publicly about her childhood and use her professional skills and personal experience to help keep children safe and give them practical tools to learn how to ask for help.
In 2017 Stephen Kavanagh the Chief Of Essex Police asked Sharon to join the Hothouse Conferences sponsored by BT bringing together partners to help the police find solutions to current digital threats.
The resources were created with a focus group of 4-5 year 6 children from Holy Cross School in Essex and with focus groups from Fairchildes School in Croydon and St Paul’s Primary School in Stoke also supporting the work.
The children and the current Chief Constable of Essex BJ Harrington launched the free resource at BETT in January 2020.
The resources were cited as a tool for the prevention of online harm in DFE guidance.
Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington said: “Protecting our children and the most vulnerable people in our communities is our highest priority and sadly it is a reality that the risk of online exploitation is increasing. This is not an issue that a single agency can tackle effectively alone and this partnership has children at its heart, while working with companies and organisations who are using technology to arm our children with the knowledge that will help to protect them. It is been fantastic to see the developments of the Dot Com programme over the years and the impact it has had. The new digital version in a time where children spend ever more time online will help us all ensure our children are safe and can feel confident in asking for help.”
Head of Safeguarding for the Metropolitan Police Commander Williams said: “The Dot Com safeguarding programme has been supported by the Metropolitan police and used successfully in primary schools across London for the last 15 years. This new digital version of the resource can now be used free by all schools in the capital and provides important lessons on the most current threats to children such as county lines and knife crime. The technology now means we can help to safeguard more children.”
Carl Foulkes Chief Constable, North Wales & NPCC Lead, Digital Internet Investigations & Intelligence Group, said: “It is been fantastic to see the developments of the Dot Com program over the years and the impact it has had. The new digital version in a time where children spend ever more time online will help us all ensure our children are safe and can ask for help and pose difficult questions which can be so difficult.”
Sharon Doughty creator of the Dot Com Programme said: “Dot Com Digital gives children a voice and a way to ask for help in the classroom without drawing attention to themselves. When I suffered abuse in my childhood I had no way of asking the teacher for help and it gives me great comfort to know that Dot Com can be the friend to children that I never had.”
The Watch Over Me secondary school resources were created with the Home Office, DFE and Foreign Office and partners. The soap operas were researched with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain in communities across the country and the first series was made with the parents of murdered Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler. All the storylines reflect real-life situations that young people or police officers have encountered and are designed to stimulate conversations around sensitive issues.
The Watch Over Me and Dot Com resources were supported by the Education Secretary Ed Balls in 2007.
Dot Com Digital was cited as a tool for the prevention of online harm in guidance from the DFE in 2019: “Dot Com Digital a free resource for schools, created by children with Essex Police and the National Police Chief Council lead for Internet Intelligence and Investigations. The resource aims to prevent young people from becoming victims of online grooming, radicalisation, exploitation and bullying by giving them the confidence to recognise warning signs and reach out to an adult for help.