PARENTS and teachers should do more to understand social media and the internet so they can protect children from the dangers that lurk online, a conference held at Langtree Park has heard.

With the average 12-year-old sending more than 20 texts a day and hours each week on the web, having a presence online is part of everyday life.

But sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat come with the downside of dangers such as grooming, exploitation and cyber bullying.

Those warnings were spelled out at the event organised by youngsters with St Helens Council and the St Helens Safeguarding Board.

It offered guidance on how children can make the right choices, ensuring they have the skills to navigate social media.

Detective Chief Inspector David McCaughrean said: “If people children don’t know make contact and it sounds too good to be true, don’t do it.

“Check them out. If they are genuine they will be subject to basic checks.

“Imagine a group of friends. If someone new comes along they don’t automatically talk to them. They get to know them for a while and check them out first.”

He added that the importance of parents, teachers and carers engaging more with social media sites, adding: “Because many don’t understand it, they don’t have any common ground when speaking to children about it.”

More than 100 delegates from St Helens Council, the safeguarding board, Merseyside Police, the NSPCC, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, schools and voluntary organisations were present.

Public health cabinet member, Cllr Andy Bowden, said: “When used properly, social media can bring massive benefits for education and the way young people interact with the world. Unfortunately there are many people out there who prey on the vulnerable – and we have to find ways of preventing this exploitation. ”

The Star has reported numerous cases where men have been jailed for grooming children online. In March, Stephen Sumner was sentenced to five years’ prison after luring young girls to his flat through Facebook before subjecting them to sexual abuse.

In December 2012 the daughter of Thomas Beddow alerted authorities after spotting Facebook messages he had sent to another sex offender about the abuse of a 13-year-old girl.