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Online Safety Right Now

Online Safety Right Now

This article first appeared in Anglican Focus on the 23rd of January 2020. https://anglicanfocus.org.au/2020/01/23/safer-internet-day/.

Safer Internet Day is marked on Tuesday 11 February in 2020. Safer Internet Day (SID) previously signified the first online safety event of the new year specifically for schools; however, the eSafety Commissioner has evolved the day into a wider community movement.

Safer Internet Day started in the European Union in 2004 to enable children and young people to benefit from the Internet, while also developing a culture of responsibility. The project aimed to create awareness in a positive way so as to promote the use of technology and empower children and young people with accurate information, which would allow them to take responsible decisions online.

Now Safer Internet Day has evolved and reaches 150 countries around the world. The Australian eSafety Commissioner wants to use SID to help you start the conversation about online safety in your wider community, your school, your family and your work.

The worldwide Safer Internet Day movement is coordinated by the INHOPE Network, with the eSafety Commissioner coordinating the day here in Australia. Both organisations have similar missions aligned to ensuring a safer childhood for our kids.

Back in 2004 when Safer Internet Days started, I was a simple flatfoot detective in the Queensland Police, albeit with some technical knowledge. By 2009 I had become involved in investigating crimes conducted against children using the online environment. At first, I believed tracking down people who hurt our children would be just like running any other serious crime investigation. I was wrong. I remember calling my wife one day from work and telling her I couldn’t do my job any longer. I said, “I can’t go into the details, except to say that I now know monsters do exist.”

I did keep doing the job and in 2010 I had the privilege of being made a trainer in Taskforce Argos. I was filled with apprehension and anxiety due to the gravity of the task. However, I was fortunate to have been mentored by some truly remarkable people and one of those was a detective from the USA Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce who inspired me with the simple words “A child’s innocence can never be replaced.” These words were written on an otherwise worthless coin that he gave me, and I treasure it for its meaning. After collaborating as a group, the message was clear that “every little bit helps” to ensure a safer internet for our kids.

By 2016 the internet seemed to be a vast space of connectivity and innovation with little or no social responsibility. It was and is vulnerable to cyber security threats from issue-motivated groups or criminals and deindividuated persons (someone who feels free to behave impulsively without care of the outcomes, such as trolls and hackers). By 2019 online risks to children were delineated into the following four categories: Conduct (how they use it), Contact (you they connect with), Content (what they look at) and Commercialism (advertising and hidden costs).

It is 2020 and what each of us does online matters, including what we ‘like’, where we go, whom we join, how we talk to others, what we post, how we handle our devices, how we respond and what we consider important enough to click on. The message “every little bit helps” is as valid today as it was 10 years ago.

This is highlighted by the change of language from ‘cyber safety’ to ‘online safety’. The differentiation has been made to distinguish from the complex concept of cyber security (i.e. special language coding, algorithms and highly technical process) to online safety.

Cyber security and online safety do cross over. However online safety is something you can do right now by empowering yourself with accurate information to make responsible decisions for you, your families and others. Online safety should not be left solely in the hands of experts, gadgets or programs, as they cannot be 100 percent effective and we cannot fully outsource child supervision. Online safety is about people. It is something that you control. It is the process of how we use technology and interact with others online. The first step to a better internet is to talk about the risks and ways to avoid them.

What you do matters. Every little bit helps.

Help spread the online safety message.

Where do you start? Your community can participate in safer internet day.

You can host a Safer Internet Day activity in your office, parish, home or simply start a conversation about coming ‘together for a better internet’.  Why not as a group participate in one of the free online parent webinars? Perhaps even over an office lunch?

Register your support and download the resources. Then talk and share about online safety.

Bookmark the revamped anglicancsaw.org, which will be posting tips and hints leading up to SID.

Join the FREE PARENT eSafety Commissioner Events 2020

Free eSafety Commissioner Events, 11 February 7 pm (AEST) and 12 February 12 pm (AEST)

‘Teens, tech and time online’

eSafety’s live webinar for parents and carers of young people aged 12-18 years will explore the latest research and expert advice for using technology safely. The session will cover how to start the chat about harmful content, relationships and online harassment.

Free eSafety Commissioner Events, 12 February 7 pm (AEST) and 14 February 12 pm (AEST)

‘Helping Kids Thrive Online’

For parents and carers of children aged 5-12 years, the session will cover how to start the chat about harmful content, contact with strangers and cyber bullying.

Anglican Schools Commission event: Safer Internet Day, 10 February 2020 9.30 am

‘Keeping Safe in the Game’

The Anglican Schools Commission hosts the eSafety Commissioner team in a live webinar.

An eSafety Commissioner event for Safer Internet Day “Keeping safe in the game” for students in Years 4-6. Empower students to keep safe when gaming. Students will explore skills for creating safer gaming environments, including balancing time online, dealing with abuse and cyberbullying, managing in-app purchases and accessing help and support.

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