Breck Bednar was a 14 year old boy from Caterham, Surrey, who loved technology and on-line gaming. He was groomed via the internet and sadly murdered on February 17th 2014 by someone he met on-line. As part of their investigation into online safety, four Year 8 young reporters interviewed Breck’s mother, Lorin Lafave.
Hello Ms LaFave, thank you so much for agreeing to speak to us. We understand it must be very hard. We would firstly like to ask how important do you think it is to tell people what happened to your son Breck?
I think it’s very important for people to know what happened to Breck because it’s a real story, he was a normal school boy. When he met an online predator online, he didn’t realise that it wasn’t his real friend. It just shows that if you are talking to someone who you feel safe talking to, they might not be who they said they were.
How vulnerable are young people when they’re online?
They are a lot more vulnerable than they think because there are evil people out there who will pretend to be someone they’re not. Breck’s story is just one version of how grooming can happen because every child can be manipulated and controlled in different ways.
What were the first red flags that something was wrong with Breck?
At that time it was very hard to differentiate between what was just normal teenage behaviour - at that age children do pull away from their family - so I couldn’t really tell if he just thought I was old and boring, or the reality, which was that an online predator was pulling him away from his friends and family.
Do you think Breck’s school was doing enough to prevent things like this happening?
I do think about that often, because every school is required to give e-safety lessons and assemblies. But some schools don’t deliver it in an engaging sort of way. When I asked Breck about his he just said “Ugh, so boring mum, so boring”. I think it’s important for them to give the message in a more interesting way. I also think that students respond to real life stories more powerfully than just to plain advice.
Do you think society is less safe due to the online world?
I actually do think that. I mean we’ve always had predators, even when I was young there was a child killer right in my county but what makes it more scary is that predators have access to us not just in parks and in our schools but in our own rooms. So because of this I do think this is a less safe time because they can invite themselves right into our houses and get into young peole’s heads.
Do you have any tips for young people for staying safe online?
My top tip is to never ever meet someone that you don’t know in a private place - it even happens to adults when they’re doing things like online dating. Another tip is to always remember to keep your online friends separate from your real friends because you might think you know them but you actually don’t. My final tip is: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is offering you all these gifts and free things, you have to ask yourself why.
Thank you very very much Ms LaFave, we really appreciate it.
Lorin Lafave was interviewed by:
Anna Lawrence-Wasserberg, Maia Harris, Amelia Toller and Max Sadur Sutherland
Please read more about the Breck foundation here