SBS KAREN

Keeping children safe online

ESafety Commissoner, eSafety.gove.au

With young people being more tech-savvy than ever, it's important for the adults around them to do the right things to keep them safe.Finds out what you can do to ensure that your children have a positive experience online?

While technology has many upsides, eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant says that negative experiences are also common.

"One in five young Australian has had a negative experience online, and that can run the gamut from cyberbullying to image-based abuse to seeing violence or hatred online."

Image-based abuse is the sharing of intimate photos without the consent of those pictured.

It's something that many parents might not be familiar with.

"It's called revenge porn in some corners, but we don't use that terminology because we ask 'revenge for what?'. And it's not porn that was really created for a broad viewing audience. We call it image-based abuse because it deals with the sharing of intimate images or videos without a person's consent. So that's often what young people would experience as sexting gone wrong."

Parents might also be worried about strangers contacting their children online.

Kids Helpline Counsellor Belinda Beaumont says that cyberbullying is also a serious issue.

"For a lot of parents, when they were growing up, they might have experienced bullying at school, at social functions, that sort of thing. But when they got home, home would be their safe place where they wouldn't have to deal with that anymore. Yet, for young people, because they're always connected, the bullying, it can feel like it never stops. When they're at home, they might be receiving messages and seeing things online."

Your children will most probably have some kind of negative experience online at some point, so the first thing to do before it happens is to open a discussion and let them know you're there for them.

"Just be engaged with your kid, keep having those conversations, build the relationship with them so that they feel comfortable sharing stuff with you when, or if, they find themselves in trouble. Making sure that you build on that relationship, build the trust and that they know they can come to you if there are any issues." 

As a parent, Belinda Beaumont knows it's tempting to ban all social media and online gaming, but she says it's not the solution.

"What I know as a Kids' Helpline counsellor is that kids are going to use it anyway, so if you try to do that, all it's going to teach them is to be more secretive and hide things, and they're going to create their own accounts anyway. So the best thing you can actually do, even though it's hard and it's scary, is to trust your relationship with them and trust them to come with you when they have issues."

What you can do, especially for younger children, is to use parental controls on your devices to help monitor or limit what they're accessing online, deliberately or accidentally.

Jane French is the executive director at Child Wise, an organisation focused on child safety.

She says it's important to talk with your children and set boundaries around the use of social media and devices.

"There are lots of websites that can help with this. Some of the rules in my house, for example, is that there's no device in the bedroom. Whenever you're on social media, you make sure you don't put anything up there to identify you. For example, make sure that children don't put themselves out there with their school uniform or showing where they live."

If your younger children have older siblings who understand the importance of online safety, involve them in the conversation.

Another way to engage with your child is to play a video game with or download an app they're using.

You'll have a better understanding of how the game or app works, and it's an occasion to chat.

But despite taking these precautions, your child might still get in trouble.

If it happens, Jane French recommends staying calm.

"The first thing is to keep the dialogue open. Make sure the children know that they can come to you if something goes wrong online. That's the first thing to do, not punishing the children if they're coming to you and have done something wrong that has led them to a situation that led them to a bit of trouble. Just be calm about that, and let them know that you'll find help."

If your child is a victim of cyberbullying or image-based abuse, Julie Inman Grant explains that you can report it online via the eSafety commissioner website, at esafety.gov.au.

"We're the only government in the world with a legislative scheme and a reporting and complaints tool for young Australians who have been seriously cyberbullied. If they report to the social media site and that serious cyberbullying is not taken down, they can come to us and we will act as a safety net and advocate on behalf of that young person to compel the social media site to take that harmful content down. We've helped about 1200 young Australians through that process and we have a 100% compliance rate with the social media sites."

The eSafety commissioner website, esafety.gov.au, is also a great place to find information about online safety and tips to start a discussion with your child, available in multiple languages.

You can also download the CyberParent app, available in 17 different languages.

These resources will be helpful says Julie Inman Grant.

"We want to be able to prepare our children to be able to navigate the online world as safely and positively as possible, we want to teach them rules around rights and responsibilities of using technology, but we also want to help them build their digital resilience and critical reasoning skills so when we're not there to support them, in the moment, that they can make the right judgements."

 

Online safety is featured in SBS’s new four part drama series The Huntingexploring how teenagers traverse the complexities of relationships, identity and sexuality via technology. Premieres on Thursday, 1st of August at 8.30pm on SBS and On Demand.

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