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Our teens at risk with no Facebook panic button here

AN Irish children's charity has called for the new Facebook 'panic button' to be made available here.

The safety application, ClickCEOP, was developed to protect under 18s from being abused on the site.

It was launched in Britain a month ago and proved successful, with a seven-fold increase in the amount of suspicious behaviour reported between June and July.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) has shown support for the service, which is currently unavailable in Ireland.

"The ISPCC believes that such a panic button would help combat child abuse on the web," National Advocacy Manager Mary Nicholson said.

It was also revealed that the agency was "concerned that Irish teenagers will not be able to download the panic button, because it is only available to people with UK IP addresses".

More than 210 people have operated the 'ClickCEOP' (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) button since it was offered on July 12 to the UK.

In comparison, only 28 Facebook users reported suspicious behaviour in June, proving the accessibility and efficiency of the new service.

The application has been downloaded more than 55,000 times in its first month, with more than 20,000 people choosing to receive regular safety online updates and 5,000 accessing help, support and advice, according to the CEOP Centre.

Facebook had been pressed to improve its privacy and safety features by CEOP, police chiefs, politicians, campaign groups and charities.

The organisations stressed the need for more systematic and widespread security measures on all social-networking sites following the conviction of serial rapist Peter Chapman.

Chapman, who impersonated a teenage boy on the popular site to befriend Ashleigh Hall, was sentenced to life in prison in March this year, after he admitted kidnapping, raping and murdering the 17-year-old.

A spokesperson for the American company told the Herald that they could not confirm when the panic button will be made available to Irish users as the application had been developed by a third party.

"It's not as if there aren't any security measures on Facebook already, it's very safe and there are other ways to report suspicious behaviour," the spokesperson said.

hnews@herald.ie