Every year, Leicester charity ‘Warning Zone’ welcomes over 10,000 children to its base, where it teaches children invaluable skills – skills which could one day save their lives or shield them from unspeakable harm.
The centre, situated in Frog Island, has been dedicated to keeping children safe since 2006 – delivering crucial messages on topics such as alcohol, drugs, anti-social behaviour, fire risk and road safety.
However in recent years, teachings have also expanded to include the onslaught of challenges faced by children in today’s increasingly tech-savvy world; issues around cyberbullying, online grooming and the sharing of inappropriate images.
“These days ‘Warning Zone’ is more important than ever,” says Elaine Stevenson, the charity’s CEO.
“When it comes to social media, there’s a big focus on livestreaming and ‘TikToking’ in dangerous places, so things like that are integrated into our teaching. The issue of ‘self image’ is also a massive one right now,” she added.
“So many children are getting affected negatively if they feel that their online image or engagement or identity is impeded in any way, so we do a lot of work around that.”
The children ‘Warning Zone’ caters for, are Year 6 pupils who are between 10 and 11 years old.
Elaine explained that it’s an important time in a child’s development – that transition into adolescence where
boundaries are being tested and independence is beginning to increase.
Groups are given a tour of eight realistic set-piece scenarios, which incorporate real-life settings, interactive equipment and special effects. Each scenario lasts for 12 minutes, has five key learning points and concludes with a group knowledge check.
“Because it’s fun and interactive, I think the messages sink in better than they would if they were taught in a classroom. The children are allowed to experience things in a practical way, rather than simply being told what they should and shouldn’t do,” said Ms Stevenson.
“It’s about trying to keep the next generation as safe as possible. It’s not about wrapping them up in cotton wool, or scaring them to death – it’s about being honest and open – having fun and heightening their critical thinking. ”
85 volunteers currently help at Warning Zone and their assistance is described as “invaluable.”
However, dozens more are needed in order to ensure the smooth running of the facility.
Since it was set up, over 200,000 children have passed through the doors of Leicester’s ‘Warning Zone,’ and there
are countless examples of how the service has helped to improve the safety outcomes of those who’ve attended.
“They learn about resilience to cohesion and exploitation and about the little voice in your head – about always listening to that and doing the right thing,” explained Ms Stevenson.
“If there are at least two or three children a day who think ‘actually what’s happening to me is not normal,’ then brilliant, we’ve done our job.”