Do you, as an educator, feel adequately equipped to teach your students about cyber safety? Do you feel comfortable in your duty to report any incidences of misconduct against students in the online space?
11 February is Safer Internet Day. On this day, millions of people around the world unite to raise awareness about online safety issues and inspire positive change. So it’s a great opportunity to revise and review your own cyber safety initiatives.
The Office of the E-Safety Commissioner has plenty of ideas and resources to help improve the online safety of your students or young children and your community.
Think U Know Contacts:
Cyber Safety Project Contacts:
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FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Hi I’m Bronwyn Brady. Welcome to For the Love of Teaching.
The internet is an incredible resource, a wonderful utopia of seemingly endless knowledge. The keeper of interesting and diverse communities and ever-changing technologies. As teachers it’s both out privilege and responsibility to integrate the cyber world into the lives of our students. But just like in the physical world, there are dangers to be aware of and protect against.
11 February is Safer Internet Day. On this day, millions of people around the world unite to raise awareness about online safety issues and inspire positive change. So it’s a great opportunity to revise and review your own online safety initiatives.
The Office of the E-Safety Commissioner has plenty of ideas and resources to help improve the online safety of your students or young children and your community.
Do you as an educator feel adequately equipped to teach your students about cyber safety? Do you feel comfortable in your duty to report any incidences of misconduct against students in the online space?
How do we keep young people safe online? And what do we do if things go wrong?
“I’ll introduce myself as a 13 year old girl named Lily. And I’ll say ‘Oh I understand what you’re going though, being a kid can be tough, I know what you’re going through I’ll help you out with that’.”
This isn’t the voice of a cyber predator recalling his practised online grooming techniques. This is Australian Federal Police officer Clint Bopping re-enacting a scenario he uses as a teaching tool in delivering the AFP’s cyber safety program, Think U Know, to school-aged kids around the country.
…And they’ll look at me and they’ll go “Ah, you’re not a 13 year old girl named Lily, and then I’ll explain to them that, well, how do you know that? And they’ll say “Well, cos, we can hear your voice, we can see what you look like and you’re in front of us and I’ll say “Exactly!”.
The Lily example, while confronting, is a way of helping students to understand that the people they’re connecting with, chatting with, playing games with and getting to know online might not be who they’re representing themselves as.
Humans are inherently social. Kids are no exception. But it’s imperative to show students that online interactions are very different from real life ones.
There are many real-world cues missing from a text based chat function in a game. Giveaways like a mature, male voice, a stubbled and wrinkly face illuminated by a blue computer screen, a coffee-splattered keyboard, and other mannerisms and nuances that we teach our kids to look out for. Things that would set off warning bells, instinctive protection mechanisms. Things that we would label as “not right”, “off” or “creepy”.
On the internet, in the absence of the full picture, nothing is as it seems.
In this episode, we’ll hear from more from Officer Clint Bopping, as well as from Leanne, a police officer from the Child Protection Assessment Team who takes reports of online abuse of children.
We’ll also be hearing from Trent and Sam, two former primary teachers who have founded the Cyber Safety Project, a proactive educational program to educate kids about staying safe online.
Trent and I started having those conversations around what actually has to happen in educating children, teachers, and parents around proactive cyber safety strategies to have at school, at home, throughout their entire childhood. We believe that when they’ve got the strategies to keep themselves safe, that they actually enact those and have the ability to do so. But we need to have some explicit conversations with young people about that and help them understand and just be aware of some of the challenges.
Sam McAulay, cofounder of the Cyber Safety Project, has seen firsthand in his own teaching experience that even small mistakes made online can have long lasting social and emotional consequences. Sam recalls being a first year teacher when the unthinkable happened:
One of my students who was given a school device was taking that home and was jumping on Minecraft, playing with his friends a lot after school and he started communicating with somebody that he didn’t know.
He was, I believe 10, 11. Year five age at the time. And he was very, very tech-savvy young man. But yeah, certainly wasn’t equipped with the skills to sort of be very cautious about going online and who he was talking to. And it was just very naive to the fact that the 13-year-old girl that he was talking to throughout this period wasn’t actually a 13-year-old girl, Aad that really escalated to the point where he started to share images, quite explicit images, and obviously found himself in a really unfortunate situation.
Sam’s student had been lured in by an offender, posing as a teenaged girl, who had convinced him to send naked pictures of himself online. It was the observant eye of a specialist teacher at the school who made the alarming discovery on the boy’s ipad.
It was just during a P.E. Class, actually. He wasn’t participating in it, and he was just on his device and looked a little bit suspicious. And the P.E. teacher went over and didn’t take too long to see exactly what was happening. We obviously got the principal, his parents involved immediately, and from that point, all the appropriate actions were taken with involving the police. And that was months and months and months of follow up in attempting to capture the perpetrator.
In this case, the perpetrator had employed some common grooming techniques to earn the trust of the child online.
One of the biggest things we see is probably manipulation, trying to convince the children that they either know them or they might try and relate to them in some way, whether it be on an emotional level. So, yeah, I guess there’s a lot of different techniques that online groomers can use to try and convince the kids that they may be their friend and they may be somebody they could meet up with and chat to in face to face situations.
In keeping our kids cyber safe, there are three clear stakeholders: the children themselves, their parents and us, their teachers.
Just even being able to have an open conversation. And I suppose the metalanguage across the whole school between kids, teachers, parents and other people within the community that we’re all on the same page.
It’s critical that we all collaborate to proactively protect kids from the dangers of the online space. For students themselves, the terrain is bumpy and the challenges are many, and I asked him what those challenges actually look like.
Yeah, I think one of the big challenges for young people is that they’re very excited to use the technology, and we know that they’re very savvy when it comes to using iPads, and devices, and apps. But one of the things th at they probably don’t know and understand is the challenges of technology is quite an adult world, but we have young people living, and playing, and working in those spaces. So, they’re sort of naive to some of the challenges, and we have to find an approach that we can educate them in a way that they ca n start to understand the need to be cyber safe and the why around being cyber safe so that then we can start talking about how to maintain their safety and how to keep them safe. We also know that they want to stay safe when they’re online. They don’t want to see scary things, and they know that they don’t want inappropriate things popping up, particularly for the younger year levels.
Next up, I wanted to know what parents report are their concerns when it comes to keeping their children cyber safe. Trent and Sam have conducted surveys in the schools they work with and have derived some common issues parents are facing.
I think the real challenge that parents are facing is just what they need to know in this space. It’s changing every single day. We’re really big advocates that we can’t cop throwing our hands up anymore and saying, “Oh, my kid knows more than I do. They’re going to be fine online because they can’t, they don’t.” It’s just a space where things can go wrong very, very quickly, so parents really need to be informed. So, the biggest concern that parents are having is like, “Please, we need more information. What can we do?” They want to learn, and we are really committed to providing that information through a variety of different platforms, just to equip them with information to have conversations with their kids around how they’re using technology in the home and at school.
Trent adds that stranger danger is still a very real concern for parents.
Really the number one concern that we’re hearing from them is around stranger danger and obviously connecting with people that they don’t know online and getting into situations similar to the incident that happened in our own school, which is becoming ever too common. And we know more and more young people are getting access to devices that they use for their own purposes, so learners and young people are managing their own devices and just being able to understand what young people are doing, why they like to play the games that they play or interact in the online platforms that they interact with. They don’t necessarily have an interest in it themselves, but want to know and understand what the young people are doing in that space.
They also want to really help with understanding how they can connect with their children and what type of conversations they need to be having so that they can protect them. I suppose one of the things that we think really important is to understand that we can’t keep up with the ever-changing landscape of different apps and applications, but essentially, most games, social media platforms, or technology apps and applications have a settings cog or a settings ability. And today, it’s really exciting to see more of these companies and developers of platforms and games that are taking a responsibility for working out ways to put protective mechanisms in place. They’re just not usually set as default for people when they sign up for their profile, and so we need to know and understand that those features exist and that within any platform, the first thing that we should always do is click on the settings app or the cogwheel or those three dots that you might see and see what’s safety features are available to you because most will have them in there, just not set as default.
It sounds pretty confronting but one thing that both Clint and Trent and Sam from Cyber Safety agree on is that the benefits of technology far outweigh the risks, and children simply need to be taught how to appropriately use the tools at their fingertips.
Technology is such a wonderful thing when used correctly and it’s such an integral part of society these days that we just need to make sure we manage it correctly and that we give kids but also teachers the tools they need to be able to na vigate that space in a safe way in general.
Trent says it’s important to adopt a proactive approach, rather than a punitive one:
I think when we remove the technology from kids, even in our classrooms, or they get banned from using technology because it’s something they’ve done wrong on the technology, it’s often around the behaviour and not the actual technology itself. And we know that technology is now used for a learning device as well, so we wouldn’t take a piece of paper off a young person if they wrote something rude on it and then use that as a method to deliver a message to somebody. So, we shouldn’t take the technology away from them either. That’s our belief that technology should be seen as a big integration into what we do in our lives all the time. So, other mechanisms need to be put in place to be able to support that child to learn from their mistakes.
So let’s get into some of these effective, actionable strategies and learning experiences which can act as a preventative measure in keeping our students safe.
The bottom line is that it’s, prevention is the key because by the time you need a cure, it’s too late. So, if we can prevent things from happening in the first instance by being informed and being educated about these topics and these issues and these apps and anything else that is in this space, if we can actually prevent something from happening in the first place, then we’re winning. That’s really what it comes down to.
Sam and Trent from Cyber Safety Project have a couple of really easy to implement teaching methods for cyber safety lessons in your classroom. For middle to upper primary students, they break down the types of online spaces into three easy to remember groups: me, we and see spaces.
So, one of the concepts that we like to work with young people in our sessions and certainly through our curriculum and building a capacity for everyone in the whole community to understand is about knowing where you are online. So, we use a method called Me, We, and See Spaces Online. So, basically anything that we do with technology or using online spaces falls into one of those three categories. A me space being a very personal space, like your internet banking, the camera roll on your phone where you wouldn’t actually let anybody else into. Those are the spaces online that we need to keep really safe and secure. And using passwords and passphrases is a really great way to be protecting yourself and keeping yourself safe in those places. In a me space online, we know that lots of people try to get to us in those me spaces as well because quite often that’s where our most personal and valuable information is. So, for example, spamming and hacking into our me spaces is something that is happening on a regular basis. So, we need to be really vigilant and know, and understand how we can stay safe in that space.
When we expand that out to a broader space online, a we space, this is a really common space for young people to engage in normal known spaces where they have private social media accounts, or they set up spaces where potentially they might be playing games with people that they know, setting up game collaborative games and inviting their friends to play with them, but we know that with we spaces also strangers or other people outside of their realm may request to join their we spaces or come in and play inside of those spaces. So, it’s important to understand the types of conversations that we have and who it is that we’re allowing into those spaces is the way to protect ourselves. And then the broader space, which is the safe spaces online. These are public profiles, these are websites, these are places like YouTube, which are open channels where people can see absolutely anything that you’re posting, saying, or doing in those spaces, which is obviously a place where it makes us most vulnerable.
They say that modelling the appropriate behaviour in these varied space-types is an invaluable tool for teachers.
Any teaching opportunity, whether that’s a teacher’s about to plug her device into the interactive whiteboard and blacking out the screen because their emails are up there and having that, this is my me space, I certainly don’t want anyone in the room seeing this or using we spaces that the school have, whether that’s collaborative documents, whether that’s closed group chats for students to have within that as well. And also the see spaces that young people will be going on regularly researching projects or playing online games that have been an educational feature within them as well. The Me, We, See Space is absolutely everywhere in a classroom and being able to just refer to them when you can as a teacher consolidates that knowledge for the young person as well.
It’s automatic for us, but I guess it’s not automatic for them yet and it’s a matter of modeling it so it becomes part of their internal dialogue I guess.
Yeah, that’s right. And I think as teachers we’re the biggest models, as parents we’re the biggest models, so just modelling that positive behaviour or having those incidental conversations are really important.
So in their sessions, Trent and Sam teach students to be mindful of the amount and the type of information and the photographs they share in each of these different types of spaces.
So, it’s really important for young people to start thinking about reviewing their profiles, looking at the types of photos that they’re taking and posting in these online spaces.
And what does maybe two or three posts on a profile? What are all of those three little pieces of information add up to? So, thinking about it from the perspective of maybe if your granny saw it, what would she think about you now that she’s seen that post? She might be an audience member, or she might be someone following you on your social platforms and you’d forgotten that and now she’s seeing a certain photo that was maybe more tiered towards your friends. What would a stranger think? What would your best friend think? What would a bully think if they saw that photo? What would your future boss think? So, thinking about it from lots of different perspectives opens up some really interesting conversations and if we give the students the opportunity to talk about their experiences and their knowledge and understanding of these, it’s really interesting to see what they already do know and understand and just building upon those strategies is a really helpful mechanism.
And the future boss perspective is one we refer to often when we’re working in high schools. And as a teaching moment, those incidental moments as we just spoke about, that you never have to look too far in mainstream media for a sports star, a politician, somebody tweeting saying something that as a 22-year old that that might not be their beliefs as a 30-year-old. That’s really come back and robbed them of some fantastic opportunities. We recently had a huge forum with some elite athletes and around the things that they have done online that potentially might rob them of some really wonderful opportunities as an elite sportsman because the views that they had seven, eight, 19-year-olds may be very, very different to the professional athlete and the values of the organizations they become a part of later in life.
It’s also really important to remind kids that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and it’s important to communicate with a trusted adult when something goes wrong online, because then (and only then) can interventions take place.
There’s a little bit of a misconception about the idea of a digital footprint as well that I would love to talk about.
When we think about the concept that’s often spoken with young people is that posting is permanent. That can be a really scary thought as well. So, when they do realise that they’ve made a mistake, it can create lots of anxiety around that young person and how they feel about themselves or the concerns that they may have around something that they’ve done. And then they’ve realised that it is a mistake. We can remove things offline, and they aren’t found again. But the reason why posting is potentially permanent is because if someone happens to screenshot or save that it is then out of our hands to be able to then manage that. It’s up to the person who now has that in their hands as to what they do with that next. So, the really important thing to be talking about with young people is that if you have made a mistake, there are ways that we can remove things from the internet and have them removed but to know that it could be permanent.
So we’ve talked a bit about strategies and lessons for older children, but it’s agreed that we need to start teaching about cyber safety in the early years.
One thing that we probably haven’t spoken about is some strategies for the younger year levels and one of those strategies that we like to use with young people in our sessions and certainly through the work in the curriculum that we offer is around a concept called STOP . And Stop might sound really simple, but it needs to be a simple strategy, so that we can understand that.
When we use the word stop, the idea is around thinking about how you feel. So, if you as a young person are thinking about safety, one of our challenges has always been around, it’s quite a conceptual understanding, safety. It’s not as easy to think physically about safety when we’re using digital technologies, so you can’t put on a helmet to stay safe when you’re using the technology. You can’t put on a seat belt or put on sunscreen to keep yourself safe, which is strategies for in the physical world. So, how do we stay safe when we’re online? And that is to think about how you feel. And if you’re feeling a little unsure, or worried, concerned, nervous, or even happy, excited. These feelings can indicate whether we’re being safe or whether we’re not safe. So, if you are questioning your safety and you’re feeling funny in the tummy, the word stops a helpful strategy because the idea is to stop doing what you’re doing.
But with that word stop, we’ve got four actions. And it’s S, for silent. So, if someone’s chatting to you and you’re not sure who they are or you’re worried about the conversation, or they’re not making you feel very nice, then going silent is the first step. Because we don’t want to be giving away any information or be saying things that we might regret. The letter T means to tell an adult, so that we can get some support that we need, who can maybe help us to calm down if we’re feeling angry or maybe to also keep us safer if we’re feeling unsafe or unsure. O is about opting out of the game and getting out of what you’re doing or getting out of the social media platform for some time, so that you can actually take a breath and think about what your next steps are.
And then the letter P is to play a new game. So, we often encourage them if they’re playing a game, and they don’t feel great, or they’re worried about their safety, then playing an offline game is often a good place to start. A puzzle, or go outside and play basketball, go and jump on your bike, or go and play cards with your brother or sister, something that is outside of technology because it just gives you that moment to be able to relax and start to think about a strategy to keep yourself safe. It’s really about empowering young people to have strategies that they can enact and not relying on adults to keep them safe, but have some things that they can draw upon to keep themselves safe when they’re using technology.
So these proactive strategies are great to have in our teaching toolboxes, but what is the appropriate and professional way to respond if something goes wrong?
Leanne is a police officer who works in the child protection assessment team.
So, our team receives all of their reports of, where ThinkUKnow hasn’t managed to prevent it and it’s actually gone to the next level and it becomes a police matter.
Leanne’s role also involves working with Clint and the team at Think U Know, using current reports to inform planning and education.
Yep. So, our team meets with Clint’s team once a week and we sit down and discuss what the latest trend is, what we’re seeing, what are the kids using, what are the problems that the kid is finding on different apps? And then Clint’s team can target, the ThinkUKnow advice to… And do you know how they do little research snippets about different apps, that’s where they get that information for what to target.
This next part’s confronting, but I felt it was important to ask: what are the main types of incidents Leanne records?
Probably the most common one for teachers and school counsellors is it’s more probably the teenage years or teen years where they’re in relationships. They’ve shared nudes of each other with each other and then their relationship busts up and then one of the parties will then get revenge on the other by sending out the images. So, image based abuse. So yeah, mainly that was the more common one.
But we do get younger ones. The younger kids, especially like now that school’s just gone back, we get reports of children kind of, not unsupervised, but they go, they take the devices into their rooms and these are littler kids, small four to probably eight year olds. They just think it’s funny. And they’ll take nude images, nude videos of themselves doing silly things, but they’re naked and they’ll upload that to the internet.
In Australia, teachers are mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse. This means they are legally required to report a belief, formed on reasonable grounds, in the course of their work, that a child is or has been the subject of sexual abuse. It will be a requirement of your registration as a teacher that you’ve undertaken professional development in the areas of student protection and mandatory reporting, which must be updated every twelve months.
If you have reasonable belief that a student has experienced abuse, please follow the student protection guidelines relevant in your state or territory. The appropriate reporting procedure will involve police.
If your student has become the subject of peer bullying, please refer the issue in writing to your school principal.
But for Leanne, many of her reports come from trusted adults acting on behalf of children.
She says the majority of her reports come through the Think U Know website.
ThinkUKnow does have a button where it says you can report abuse. So, we do get reports from parents from that. We also get reports from sport coaches, dancing teachers, sometimes from teachers and school counselors. We also get reports from foreign law enforcement and also from all of the apps.
But we’re more than happy to chat to teachers or for teachers to make reports. But I do realize you guys have your own reporting mechanisms, so you should follow that first.
You might have seen an option to report abuse, or misuse, within apps. When Leanne says the AFP receives reports from the apps, this information comes through these in-app “report abuse” buttons. So if a user or parent submits a response, each app developer has a team which is responsible for passing that report onto NCMEC, which is The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, nonprofit organisation established in 1984 by the United States Congress. NCMEC then passes the report onto the police in the relevant jurisdiction. As the cyber world knows no geographical bounds, international cooperation and action is required to ensure children’s safety.
Next I asked Leanne what happens once a report has reached the AFP.
Depending on the severity of it, we have joint teams in each capital city between the AFP and the state police, so we can send it to them or we can send it to the local police. If it’s in like a country area, we’ll send the report to them. It just, each report’s different and it’s, yeah, it gets sent out to someone. It’s just which police service or where or how is all a bit different.
What sort of evidence and information do parents and teachers need to record to provide to police?
The first thing we need parents to do is to take screenshots of everything. We need evidence, we need information that we can act on. So, take screenshots of everything. We then ask the parents to block. Block the person of interest. And then we will then, depending on what’s happened, I’ll recommend the parent maybe seek counselling for their child and then we’ll investigate and see where we can take it.
In the case of Sam’s student, who we spoke about earlier, the relevant parties stepped into appropriate action, working effectively in their roles to remove danger and to protect the child.
If you’d like to book some education for your school, year level or class, both Think U Know and The Cyber Safety Project offer in-school presentations and educational materials to Aussie schools.
Think U Know operates nationally, as a collaboration between federal and state police services, and is free to access.
Yeah, so ThinkUKnow is Australia wide. We’ve got a footprint in all metropolitan areas around Australia and we can continue to train state and territory police presenters and industry volunteers in our regional areas as well. Contributing to a large capacity generally to deliver face to face sessions and if it is in a remote or a more rural area where we may not be able to get there, we can facilitate a digital training session using the technology we’re using today, whether it be Google Meetings or whether it be Skype for business or something like that. We can actually facilitate digital presentations as well.
As I said, every year we travel around Australia and retrain our state and territory police presenters and the youth program is delivered by state and territory police into the schools, into the classrooms for the students. And the parents, carers and teachers program is delivered by our industry volunteers from our program partners, Microsoft, Datacom and Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Bankwest. And they are the ones that will deliver the parents’ presentations into the schools for parents and teachers and carers in collaboration with also state and territory police volunteers as well.
So to book a session just visit www.thinkuknow.org.au and click on “Book a Presentation”. I’ll pop a link in the show notes of this episode.
The Cyber Safety Project was developed by Trent and Sam, two former primary school teachers, and is aligned to the National Curriculum.
It’s really about empowering young people to have strategies that they can enact and not relying on adults to keep them safe, but have some things that they can draw upon to keep themselves safe when they’re using technology.
The Cyber Safety Project offers student based Cyber Safety shows and sessions which are tailored around the current themes for digitally engaged young people.
- Online Privacy & Security
- Social Profiles
- Safe Posting Protocols
- Online Gaming
- Digital Wellbeing
- Digital interactions & Screen Time
The Cyber Safety Project also provides professional development to educators, providing Proactive Teaching Strategies to Live, Work & Play Safely Online:
This session explores the changing landscape of the most popular social networking platforms and provides easy to implement lesson ideas that will arm teachers and students with protective measures for safe online use within the classroom:
- Understanding key trends and topics for digitally engaged children in today’s world which is imperative for the cyber safety curriculum.
- Discovering the Online Teacher Portal with lesson plans, digital resources and activities for ongoing work back in the classroom.
- Making explicit links to the General Capabilities/Digital Technologies Curriculum and formative/summative assessment resources.
Yeah, well we’re really proud of what we’ve been able to produce, and we can say that there’s been real impact in the schools that we’ve been able to work with.
Trent and Sam also provide evening parent information sessions. To book those, visit www.cybersafetyproject.com.au , and I’ll pop all of the social media links in the show notes for this episode.