Online Safety during the School Holidays
As we head towards the long Christmas break, many of our children are likely to be spending more time on their phone, online and using social media.
This is a timely reminder for you to have open conversations with your child about their social media and internet use. These may include discussions around:
- who they are connecting with
- what they are viewing/ how they are using the internet
- how often they are using social media
- understanding the different features of apps, including age recommendations around various apps
- your child’s awareness and understanding of safety and respect, and what to do if they need help or are concerned.
The Carly Ryan Foundation App Fact Sheets are an excellent resource for parents, providing information about many of the more popular apps that young people may be accessing.
In addition, the Australian Government’s eSafety Commission provides useful information on current issues, advice and expert recommendations, alongside many resources including online safety books, and templates for family tech agreements that can be used to set clear boundaries around phone/internet use at home. There is also a link where online abuse can be reported.
Also, it’s important to be aware that Schools in Australia have recently received correspondence from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), through the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, that there is a concerning global trend of teenage males being targeted to send explicit images of themselves and then blackmailed. This is called sexual extortion, or sextortion.
The AFP is urging families to have important safety conversations ahead of the school holidays to prevent young people from becoming victim. This crime can have serious wellbeing and psychological impacts.
How does sextortion start?
- Unsolicited friend and follow requests on social media
- Direct messages on one app and then being asked to keep chatting on a secondary app
- Conversations suddenly and quickly becoming sexualised
- Requests for sexualised images or content.
What can families do?
- Have open and regular conversations about your child’s online activities and interactions
- Know what platforms, apps and games they are using and who they are interacting with
- Remain open and approachable, victims will be reluctant to come forward if they feel they will be punished or blamed
- Ensure your child knows that it is okay to leave conversations if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe
- Support your child and know how to respond. The Online Blackmail and Sexual Extortion Response Kit has been created to recognise sextortion and get help.
The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation’s mission is to keep young people safe from online sexual exploitation and abuse. You can report online sexual exploitation and abuse here.
It’s also important that you are aware that, as part of your child’s education at St John’s Grammar School, they learn about the safe use of technology, including various digital platforms, which will support them in making informed choices that ensure responsible, respectful and safe behaviour online. This is provided in both the curriculum and our Wings pastoral programs and seeks to reinforce consistent messages for every student. School policies are also in place to promote the safety and wellbeing of all students – the Student Mobile Phone Policy is available here, while the Social Media Policy is available here.
In addition, there is a Digital Wellbeing checklist, by Dr Kristy Goodwin, that is worth reading. As well, the Communications Alliance has a list of recommended and approved apps for parent controls such as Family Zone.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s Head of House, Head of School, or Leader of Student Wellbeing, Danielle Kemp.