Cyber safety at the forefront at St Columba

How to avoid the pitfalls: Matt Richards discusses anti-bullying procedures on the iPad with Gregory Mitchell and Hugo Bittar. Pic: Matthew Attard
How to avoid the pitfalls: Matt Richards discusses anti-bullying procedures on the iPad with Gregory Mitchell and Hugo Bittar. Pic: Matthew Attard

KIDS are being urged to think twice about what they post online, as the first wave of digital natives settle into high school across Port Macquarie.

Today, chances are a 15-year-old child is far more comfortable online than their parents may ever be, and even toddlers have an uncanny knack with technology.

But experts warn that simply because kids know how to use these tools, it does not mean they understand how to do so safely.

It comes after a Telstra Cyber Safety survey revealed four in five young people in regional NSW admitted they did not realise the content they created online could impact their future.

Almost half of them said they had posted adverse content online, because of peer pressure.

But the consequences of online behaviour can very easily translate to the offline world and, ultimately, lead to unparalleled opportunities or serious risks.

Avoiding the latter, says St Columba Anglican College (SCAS) director of e.Learning and Ed.Tech Matt Richards, is paramount to your child’s future.

The College, he said, focuses heavily on education through its Digital Citizenship program for students in Kindergarten right through to Year 12.

It has been so successful, that SCAS has run the same program for St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney.

This year, it will also be offered for teachers, students and parents from across the Hastings. But beyond teaching kids how to avoid the dangers of the web, Mr Richards said a focus on the empowering aspects would be key to help many reach their potential.

“We school the kids on how to not only be safer, but more importantly how to create a positive social media identity, which could later help them get a job,” he said. “It’s about empowering kids, rather than making them fearful.”

His views are shared by Rosie Thomas, co-founder of Project Rockit an anti-bullying and leadership organisation.

The Telstra research, she said, proved children need to be equipped with standing-up for themselves online.

She sighted the importance of students taking ownership of their own online brand, and making use of online opportunities.

“Social media and the internet is an awesome place for breaking down social barriers and harnessing people power to do the right thing,” Ms Thomas said.

“We need to give young people the tools to make the most of everything the internet offers, including the strength to stand up and be leaders in both the online and offline worlds.”

Tips for parents

1. Talk with your kids about their digital lives and let your children know you’re always there for them

2. Protect personal information - teach your children how to turn on privacy settings 3. Encourage children to ‘think before they click’, to think about content and the consequences of posting it.

4. Be an offline supporter. Encourage kids to have some screen-free time each day and turn off devices at bedtime 

5. Teach kids to treat others the same way they’d like to be treated online and be zero-tolerant to rude or mean online behaviour

6. Don’t just talk about the right thing to do; be a role model with your own digital habits.

Tips for teens

1. Protect your personal information. Turn up privacy settings, use strong passwords, change them regularly and don’t share them.

2. Think before you click - think about content and the consequences of posting it.

3. Remember, your phone doesn’t rule your life. Have some screen-free time each day and turn off devices at bedtime.

4. Treat others as you’d like to be treated online

5. Talk to an adult you trust if you if someone you know is being cyberbullied or you see something online that upsets you.

Source: Telstra

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