It is a tremendous pleasure for me to be here at the launch of the URZONE web site and I would like to congratulate all those who have been involved in its production. I know that we are also taking the opportunity today to reward a number of school pupils who have won prizes in the Chief Constable’s Christmas Anti-Bullying Poster competition.
So before I say something about the web site I would like to say a few words about dealing with bullying. My office recently did a major piece of research to find out what issues most concerned children and young people in Northern Ireland, and where they felt their rights were most threatened. One issue that came out as a very strong concern was bullying. We also know from Childline’s figures that the main issue prompting young people to phone them is bullying.
And in my first year as Commissioner for Children and Young People I have dealt with a number of individual complaints about bullying. I have also recently met with the Education Minister Barry Gardiner to stress the importance of the Department making sure that schools really do develop and carry through their bullying policies.
I have to say though, that in the middle of all this activity, I think the most effective way of getting across the message about bullying is for young people themselves to do so – through being involved in the approach schools take to dealing with bullying, and through media like this poster competition. So I would like to congratulate all those who are going to get prizes later. I hope your posters get displayed in your own school, and get bullies to think twice.
Before I took up my current position as the Commissioner for Children and Young People, I spent 8 years founding and then developing the international children’s charity, Childnet. The focus of Childnet’s work is to help make the internet a great and safe place for children. I am glad to say that the charity continues to go from strength to strength in both promoting positive internet use by children and young people, and in ensuring that use is safe.
While I was at Childnet I spent a lot of my time looking at web sites for children. I helped write a book published by Usborne on 101 things to do on the Internet. I chaired the judges for an annual award programme which attracted over 200 entries annually from around the world of innovative online work involving young people. In summary, I have probably looked at more websites for young people than you have had hot dinners!
But I have now been out of that world for just over a year. It was tremendously refreshing for me therefore to have the chance to look again in detail at a web site aimed at young people – the URZONE site.
My criteria for a great web site for young people are as follows: It must be interactive, it must be fun, it must not be patronizing, it must be updated regularly, and it must have practical information. In Northern Ireland there is the additional challenge of reaching all the community.
So I have looked at the Urzone site with these criteria in mind. Let me give you my quick assessment:
So all in all, I think this is an excellent site – undoubtedly by far the best police service site I have seen. I would encourage schools and youth clubs to link to the site, I certainly intend to ensure that my own website www.niccy.org does link to Urzone.
So let us hope that Urzone becomes the zone for every young person in Northern Ireland.