A cartoon character has been deployed in the fight to stop primary school children falling into the clutches of county lines drugs gangs.
Dot Com and an array of other characters will help children spot dangerous situations, talk to their teachers about their worries and feel safe on the internet.
The computer programme was designed by Dot Com Children’s Foundation and Essex Police and was designed around the feedback they got from children.
Games and activities aim to help children understand challenging subjects such as grooming, county lines – the practice of shipping class A drugs from the saturated London market to the home counties – and knife crime.
It was created because of growing concerns around these issues and the safety of children, as exploitation within drug gangs continues to dominate the news.
Recent figures show Kent is the most crime-ridden region in the south east as the county’s police force battles county lines and knife crime.
And despite knife crime dropping by 3% last year, it has risen by 146% over the last decade, faster than anywhere else in the country.
The cartoon characters will also be used to help young people talk to teachers about their feelings.
Pupils will learn about their “uh-oh signs,” which are the sensations they will feel when in danger such as sweating, shivering and butterflies in their stomach.
Once they have the vocabulary to express their feelings, children can use the “dot minute” button on their computer screens to alert the teacher of their distress without alerting the rest of the class.The initiative was launched at Bett 2020, an annual trade show for technology in education, and 1,363 schools across the country have already signed up.
However, it is thought that Kent schools are yet to register.
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.”