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How to keep your child safe online

The internet brings the world and opportunities to our home and there is plenty that families can do to ensure their children stay safe on the information superhighway.

NEWS 31 Aug 2023

Keeping students safe in an online world is an ongoing challenge but schools and parents are taking plenty of proactive steps to bring security and peace of mind.

Recent insights from Western Sydney University research highlight the kind of support young people need when they navigate the online world. They want more online safety education, tools and resources to help them address key issues — from cyberbullying and image-based abuse to unwanted or unsafe contact, scams and sexting.

They also want clear guidelines about who to approach for help when things go wrong, and they want their parents, teachers and trusted adults to educate themselves about life online so they can give young people accurate advice when they need it. Some of the key points raised by the Young and Resilient Research Centre (Western Sydney University) include:

“We want all young people to be safe online, no matter what their age, gender, cultural background, or class.”

“We want an internet that is non-judgemental, safe and inclusive, where young people can connect with each other, express and learn about themselves, and explore the world they live in.”

“We want the adults in our lives – caregivers, teachers, community leaders, governments and businesses – to ensure that we aren’t unjustly exposed to danger and to support us to be safe online

Talking about safety

Building on this research, an Online Safety Youth Advisory Council has been established that will see young people work with the eSafety Commissioner to plan new policies and programs to keep young people safe online.

“The Council gives young Australians a genuine voice in designing youth-centred initiatives and helping shape online safety policy for the future. We want the Council’s advice to help us understand what their ideal online experience looks like, and what support they need to access more positive experiences and opportunities online.”
eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant

SCROLL - a youth-led safety campaign

In 2022, a new youth-led campaign called SCROLL, developed by the eSafety Commissioner and young designers, rolled out across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. It features real stories of how young people can protect themselves, where to get help, and how to support friends who may get in to trouble online.

All these initiatives are part of an ongoing push to improve and enhance online safety and schools and educators are also keenly monitoring every technological advance and opportunity to promote safe internet use.

Gateway to a wider world

As a portal to a wider world and to rich and diverse experiences, the internet is a fundamental educational tool. For parents, a raft of resources are available to help them keep young people safe and stay up-to-date with the latest issues and strategies to support their children online.

As well as staying on top of the nuts and bolts of technology, Dr Tom Harrison, a Reader in Education at the University of Birmingham in the UK, encourages schools and parents to foster ‘cyber-wisdom’, based on what he calls the REACT model.

How to R E A C T

R for ground rules – set rules about when children can access the internet, how long for and for what purpose.

E for exemplar – model the kind of online behaviour and habits you want your child to follow.

A for advisor – be a partner and coach in your child’s online learning experience.

C for character – talk about testing times that happen online, how that makes them feel and what they feel the best plan of action is.

T for thrive - if you can encourage all the above, your child will have cyber-wisdom and thrive in the digital world.

For further information on cybersafety, this government-initiated parents’ guide provides valuable insights into staying safe online.