THE internet is a "great invention for paedophiles" and more West Fife parents need to know the dangers lurking on the web.

Crime prevention officer Fraser Laird believes not enough mums and dads are aware of the pitfalls with no-one turning up for some of the police briefings on how to protect children online.

Teachers talk to pupils in Primary 3 about internet safety while police in Fife speak to Primary 6 and S1 kids, as well as parents, on issues including cyber-bullying, fraud, grooming and sexting.

PC Laird, who is based in Dunfermline, said: "The internet is a great invention for paedophiles as they can get access to information they wouldn't normally get.

"It's a great tool for them so it's important your online personal information is as secure as you can possibly make it.

"Before, if something happened in the playground, it was forgotten the next day.

"Now, someone can take a picture, share it online and it can go anywhere and be used by anyone.

"It's the same with bullying. Before, when you got home at night, the bullying stopped.

"Now, it doesn't. Kids pick up their tablet and the bullies can still get to them, and it can be people they don't even know who don't see the consequences of what they're saying to them.

"They'll say things online they'd never say to your face.

"That's where cyber-bullying is so horrible, and it can be the same for adults too."

The safety talks are based on CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) guidelines, a national agency that aims to keep children and young people safe from sexual abuse and grooming online.

Fife offers the structured talks to Primary 3, Primary 6 and S1 pupils while there are sessions for parents too.

PC Laird admitted: "The parent talks are probably the most important but also the hardest to get people to attend.

"Sometimes, no-one turns up. There's a lot of apathy. It's only when something happens at school that they ask what's being done about it.

"If you put them on during the day, parents say they're at work. If you put them on at night, they'd rather sit at home and watch Coronation Street.

"It's sad. If I get seven or eight people that's deemed a success."

He added: "Some parents do know and that's fine. We're also clear at the start that we're not experts, we're not techy guys, we talk about the things we know, the legal side and how to keep your child safe.

"The internet is a fantastic invention and kids should have fun with it but be careful. It's good for us but it's good for criminals too."

There is a suspicion that not enough parents know what their child is getting up to online.

PC Laird said: "There are kids as young as five with Facebook pages and a nine-year-old with two pages; one he did himself that his parents didn't know about, where he'd altered the name totally. What's he doing with two Facebook pages? At nine you shouldn't even have one, you're supposed to be 13.

"There was a pupil at a high school in Dunfermline who told us he had 2,000 Facebook friends. They think the more friends they have, the more popular they are. It's a fallacy.

"He'd only met a fraction of them and didn't know who most of them were, which means you don't know who's looking at your page and your information, your hobbies, where you like to go, what team you play for."

PC Laird said parents who attend find the safety talks beneficial.

He explained: "Overall, crime is coming down but cyber crime is rising. There's a lot of talk about protecting personal information and yet some of the stuff people put on Facebook is unbelievable.

"They'll post something like, 'On Saturday, we're going on holiday to Portugal for two weeks'.

"You may as well post, 'Why don't you come and break into my house as there'll be no-one there?'"

He also added: "If you like a page, then they have access to your personal information.

"One of the videos we show is a set-up, a cafe where customers like the Facebook page to get a free coffee.

"There are people in a van outside who then check the customer's details and relay, using a headset, to the barista who reads their information back to them, such as their email address, where they go to college, their pet's name etc.

"That's how easy it can be and for a criminal that can be very valuable. They could be taking a loan out using your name before you know it."

PC Laird concluded: "When it comes to keeping your kids safe online, the important thing is not to spy on them. Talk to them and find out what they're looking at or what they're playing.

"Parents should register on the Think You Know website; it has lots of up-to-date information, an age range, the latest on scams and is a very useful resource.

"If we can save one or two kids from doing something stupid online that could ruin their lives it's got to be worthwhile."

Find out more at and For information on the talks, contact your child's school.