TEENAGERS facing "the seemingly relentless development of new technologies" have been taught about how to spot child sexual exploitation and grooming.

Issues such as consent, how to understand if they are being groomed, and what could happen if intimate pictures were sent online were covered in a youth conference with 13 and 14-year-olds from across Darlington.

The Young Persons Conference was developed by Darlington Safeguarding Children Board and was held at Darlington College, working with pupils and teachers, to complement what was being taught in school.

The event covered three workshops covering teenagers and their digital footprint - the trail that people leave online - how child sexual exploitation is manifested, and emotional wellbeing. The pupils were then challenged to create a display for their schools highlighting the most important messages from the conference.

Simon Hart, independent chair of Darlington Safeguarding Children Board, said: “It was about the young people learning about what can be the extremely subtle nature of grooming and how they would recognise some of the signals.

“It was really trying to get over about how the grooming process can be a lengthy process and how patient these perpetrators can be. There might also be several people involved in the process. The event was also about making the distinction between what is consensual and what is not and we had an interesting discussion about it.

“This conference gave the board a great opportunity to explore some of the challenges faced by young people arising from the seemingly relentless development of new technologies, exploitation and the impact of modern living on health and wellbeing.

“As a board, we are enthusiastic to hear directly from young people about situations that make them feel unsafe and to better understand their own experiences.”

Councillor Cyndi Hughes, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said the Darlington Safeguarding Board was bringing agencies and organisations together to identify emerging risks.

She added: “This is a great example of raising awareness of these dangers in order to make our children and young people safer. As a community we all need to work together towards this important aim.”

Debra Cragg, Quaker College manager at Hummersknott Academy, said: “As a school we felt it was important for us to support the development of the conference this year as it aims to be relevant for all and deliver key messages to young people on how to keep themselves safe."