[P]olice have praised the hard work of students from Carlisle College for their successful takeover of the ‘cumbriacops’ Snapchat account.
It is believed it is the first time in the UK that a police force has handed over control of their Snapchat account to another organisation.
The innovative project was part of a campaign targeting teenagers, warning them of the dangers of sexting. The campaign ran from 13th March on the run up to National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on 18th March 2017.
Media students from Carlisle College, aged 16-19, used the cumbriacops account for a week to tell the fictional story of a girl who agrees to send her boyfriend a naked photo of herself, and how this results in her being sexually exploited.
The lead male role was played by Brad Mattinson, aged 17, from Temple Sowerby. Brad has a YouTube channel with over 58,000 followers, with some videos having over a million views. His Twitter account has over 60,000 followers.
In less than a week, the cumbriacops account gathered around 500 followers, the majority of which are teenagers. Most of the ‘snaps’ during the week had hundreds of views.
During the week the cumbriacops account received ‘snaps’ from young people with positive feedback on the project, including:
“Thank you for letting me know about this. I think this is a really good way of showing people the risks of what could happen. Thank you for making us aware, it’s a really good idea. It does make you realise what could happen, you could do a video of different scenarios to make people think it would happen to them if they did something like that.”
“I want to applaud you guys for this, this is so awesome that you are raising awareness!! Bravo Carlisle College – brilliant to watch”
“Well done…..that was a great week of well thought out and executed work. It was interesting to see how a teenage Snapchat scenario unfolds, I perhaps could of guessed, but with it being real people it made it a real scenario”
A cumbriacops Instagram account was also launched during the week and has gathered over 210 followers, with 485 people engaging with the main CSE post (either likes or comments).
DI Brian Murray said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank the students for their hard work on this project – we are delighted with the outcome. It was a big risk handing over control of our account for the week, but the students involved were professional, enthusiastic, and did a lot of work in their own time.
“It was important for us to talk to teenagers in their language and on a platform they regularly use. By working with Carlisle College we were able to get young people to speak to young people directly, and get important safety information across.
“Sexting is increasingly becoming a problem in Cumbria, and is vital that young people realise the risks of sending indecent images and how it can lead to blackmail, bullying, and/or exploitation.”
Darren Horne, Media Lecturer, from Carlisle College said: “This has been a really exciting project for us, and it has been a great opportunity for our students to create content for a new social media platform. It has also been beneficial for them to see what it is like to work in partnership with a large high-profile organisation, and provide the students with a ‘real-world’ experience.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “This has been a fabulous project getting the message across to young people around the dangers of CSE and sexting. I have just launched my Youth Commission which allows young people to have a voice in policing and get a better understanding of the issues affecting them. Anyone wanting to join the Youth Commission can please contact my Office.”
For more information or advice about CSE please visit: https://www.cumbria.police.uk/Advice-Centre/Personal-Safety/Child-Sexual-Exploitation.aspx
If you are worried that someone you know may be a victim of sexual exploitation please call Cumbria Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Alternatively if you have a concern about a child please contact the Cumbria Safeguarding Hub on 0333 240 1727.
If you are a young person and are upset or worried by an image you have sent or received, you can call ChildLine and talk to someone in confidence on 0800 1111.
If you know of an image of you or a friend is on a social networking site you will need to contact the service provider (e.g. Facebook) to get it removed.
Follow Cumbria Police on Facebook and Twitter. Follow cumbriacops on Snapchat and Instagram.