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BBC unveils Chatguide after 12-year-old's disappearance

LONDON - BBCi has produced a Chatguide for parents and children, launched by Meera Syal, on how to chat safely on the internet after the scare sparked by the disappearance of 12-year-old Shevaun Pennington with a 31-year-old former US Marine.

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Toby Studabaker was been arrested today in Frankfurt and taken into custody after a joint international police operation. Shevaun is now with Greater Manchester Police officers.

Shevaun disappeared on Saturday and is understood to have flown to Paris with Studabaker, who she had met on the net and had been emailing for a year. It has been reported that Shevaun told the former US Marine that she was 19.

The BBCi Chatguide is available online or in a leaflet available from local libraries.

It aims to offer guidance on how to keep you and your family safe while enjoying the web. Tips and suggestions are given in three sections for parents, teenagers and kids.

The campaign is being fronted by 'Kumars at No 42' and 'Goodness Gracious Me' star Meera Syal.

According to Syal: "Computers, mobiles, games consoles and interactive TV are cool 'toys' for kids -- but they invite the outside world into your home. Chatguide explains how you, as parents, can help keep your kids safe."

The guide argues that just as parents decide which television programmes are best for their children, they should also check out the websites and chatrooms that they plan to visit.

The guide aims to drive home the idea that although children may have been chatting online "friends" for a long time, these people are really still strangers.

The guide is careful not to pander to paranoia and argues that not all chatrooms and message boards are full of "lurking paedophiles", but it offers a reminder that it is important to be aware of the dangers.

Some of the tips the guide offers include keeping the PC in a family room and to make sure kids never give out their personal details.

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