Wednesday, 01 Feb 2017

Life Education NSW issues back-to-school safety warning amid increase in cyber bullying

A popular Australian Christmas present is putting our children at risk, Life Education NSW warns.

New research by Telstra found 24 per cent of Australian parents had planned to give their children smartphones for Christmas last year, most doing so for “safety reasons”.

But Life Education NSW, which provides health and cyber safety education to more than 300,000 NSW children, warns of the dangers of mobile phone misuse.

“A mobile phone can be a great communication and safety tool for everyone, including children, as they head back to school,” Life Education NSW CEO Kellie Sloane said.

“Unfortunately, some kids are using mobile phones to bully others. It is vital that both children and parents are educated about the safe use of technology, including mobile phones.”

This warning comes after figures released late last year by the NSW Education Department found an alarming trend in cyberbullying and sexting in NSW schools. In 2015 alone, there were 152 reports involving inappropriate online behaviour, with sexting and cyber bullying moving down the stream into primary schools.

“Technology has increased the complexities for Australian parents in dealing with bullying. Research shows one in five Australian children aged between eight and 15 has experienced cyber bullying,” Ms Sloane said.

“Education is vital for our kids. It builds the foundations for coping mechanisms and prevention. But parents need help, too. It’s a fast-evolving medium and it’s hard to keep up — and keep track.

“I’d urge all parents to take the time to educate themselves about how they can help their children use mobile phones responsibly, and about what to do if your child has been a victim of cyber bullying.

“Don’t allow it to be a hidden problem. There are terrific online resources. Make cyber-safety briefings offered by the police a must-do. Insist your school provides cyber-safety programs and teaches good digital citizenship.

“Ask your child to teach you what they know. Ask them if they know anyone who has been bullied or how they react if they notice bullying.

“And don’t react with emotion when you discover something bad. The kids are the victims here — even the bullies themselves sometimes.”

Life Education’s bCyberwise program teaches children aged 8-10 years about building positive relationships with online and offline friends, safe and respectful behaviour online, responsible behaviours when using communication technology, strategies for keeping personal information safe online, and strategies to deal with face to face and cyberbullying.

Top tips to help your kids use mobile phones safely:

• Establish rules. Set some guidelines before you buy your child a mobile phone. When and where is your child allowed to use the phone? For example, to avoid cyber-bullying and sexting risks, it’s a good idea not to allow mobile phones in children’s bedrooms at night. Instead, set up a charging table in the living room for overnight storage of phones and devices.

• Lead by example. Demonstrate the importance of respectful behaviour online – when you text, comment on social media, post photos etc, model respectful language.

• Communicate. Talk to your children about dangerous phone behaviours, such as talking to strangers. Minimise risks by teaching your child about appropriate us of pictures and videos, and about the legal implications of sexting.

• Don’t give out personal information. Tell your child to only give out their phone number to family and friends. Also ensure your child is aware of features such as geolocation, which can identify a phone’s physical location and add “geotags” to photos. To keep your child safe, consider switching off locations services that aren’t needed.

• Learn their technology. Stay one step ahead and take the time to research the various devices your kids use. You want to know more about their devices than they do.

• Stay calm. If your kids come to you with an online problem, it’s important not to overreact. Deal with it calmly and don’t threaten to take devices away, or they may not feel confident about seeking your help again.

For more cyber safety resources, visit https://www.lifeeducation.org.au/parents/cyber-safety

Life Education NSW CEO Kellie Sloane chatted to Channel 7's The Daily Edition about cybersafety. Watch the clip here: https://au.tv.yahoo.com/the-daily-edition/video/watch/34306125/teaching-your-kids-to-be-safe-with-their-smart-phones/#page1

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