The AFP and the Alannah & Madeline Foundation have signed a new online safety agreement. Picture: David Caird
The AFP and the Alannah & Madeline Foundation have signed a new online safety agreement. Picture: David Caird

Aussie kindergarten cop plan to stop cyberbuylling

CHILDREN as young as two could be educated about online safety and the dangers they may face in cyberspace as part of an agreement between the Australian Federal Police and advocate group the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

News Corp Australia can reveal the two organisations have signed a formal partnership to roll out training for parents and toddlers about cyber-bullying and the risks of child exploitation online.

It could involve AFP officers visiting childcare centres or preschools to educate kids about online safety and being respectful digital citizens.

Children as young as two are set to be educated about online safety as part of an agreement between the AFP and the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. Picture: iStock
Children as young as two are set to be educated about online safety as part of an agreement between the AFP and the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. Picture: iStock

The move is a sign of the growing importance the AFP - which typically focuses on drug and national security matters - places on cyber-bullying and cyber safety.

In the past year alone, cyber abuse complaints to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner have spiked by 34 per cent.

Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor said the rise in exploitation of very young children online was a catalyst for this new agreement.

"Young children are being targeted. Child sex offenders know no boundaries and they are constantly seeking new ways to exploit technology and get access to our young children," Mr Taylor said.

"You don't teach a preschool child the same as what you would teach a high school kid of course but there are still things they can learn. Just as we teach them about stranger danger in the physical world we need to teach them the same in the online world.

"The reality is no parent can stand over their kids' shoulder 24 hrs a day …"

The major step forward for tackling cyber safety and bullying comes as News Corp Australia can also reveal research that shows parents think social media companies and the government are still not doing enough to combat the worrying trend.

The AFP said it was "excited" to be working on developing new online safety initiatives.

"Our two organisations (AFP and Alannah & Madeline Foundation) share a strong desire to ensure more children, parents and carers have the information and tools to stay safe online," a spokesman said.

Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO Lesley Podesta said details of the partnership and the specific initiatives were still to be ironed out.

"We are working through the agreement but it could include things like information sessions, building on our digital license cyber safety game to make it accessible for children under the age of five and both organisations possibly visiting childcare centres and preschools," she said.

Lesley Podesta (right), CEO of Alannah and Madeline Foundation said kids needed to be told about cyber safety before they reacher school. Picture: David Caird
Lesley Podesta (right), CEO of Alannah and Madeline Foundation said kids needed to be told about cyber safety before they reacher school. Picture: David Caird

One in five children reported being cyber bullied in the past 12 months and a worrying one in four Aussie kids under the age of 12 are being stalked, harassed and abused online at alarming levels.

From 1 July 2017 - 30 June 2018 there were 409 cyber-bullying complaints, up 34 per cent from the 305 complaints received the previous corresponding year.

Close to half of the entire 931 complaints received since June 2015 were over the past 13 months.

The AFP said it was “excited” to be working on developing new online safety initiatives. Picture: Australian Federal Police
The AFP said it was “excited” to be working on developing new online safety initiatives. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Ms Podesta told News Corp Australia the time was over for leaving the discussion on cyber safety until children reached school.

"We don't talk about how to communicate online to our kids from an early enough age," Ms Podesta said.

"Kids are online before they can even read and we need to be talking about this stuff with them from the time they are two, from the time they are online."

Author and digital parenting expert Dr Kristy Goodwin was concerned targeting children under six would confuse and scare them. Picture: Craig Greenhill
Author and digital parenting expert Dr Kristy Goodwin was concerned targeting children under six would confuse and scare them. Picture: Craig Greenhill

Digital parenting expert Dr Kristy Goodwin praised the AFP and the Alannah & Madeline Foundation for taking action to prevent cyber-bullying and child exploitation online.

But she said targeting children under the age of six would simply confuse and scare them.

"I don't think it will be particularly helpful having direct conversations with children under the age of six or seven because they simply don't have the cognitive ability to understand the abstract concept of someone on the other end of a computer screen wanting to hurt or exploit you," Dr Goodwin said.

"It's not like stranger danger where it is tangible that someone is physically there trying to take you away. We also need to ensure we are not instilling fear into these children unnecessarily and talking to them about concepts they don't understand.

"The conversations would be best left with the parents. I think that's a good thing. They want this information earlier."

Cyber-bullying complaints rose 34 per cent during the last financial year. Picture: Supplied
Cyber-bullying complaints rose 34 per cent during the last financial year. Picture: Supplied

News Corp Australia can reveal a survey of more than 1000 parents by nabtrade - which this week raised $147,000 for the Alannah & Madeline Foundation - found an overwhelming 80.6 per cent of parents still don't think the government is doing enough to prevent cyber bullying and 88 per cent think social media companies are lacking in a response to the worrying trend.

A total of 58 per cent of parents think schools need to step up and do more to combat the issue and 55 per cent of parents are monitoring their children's social media use, half of those in secret.

Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner and former Microsoft and Twitter exec, said it was never too early to talk to your child about online safety.

"From the moment a child takes their first swipe of an iPad at home, right through their educational experience at school, the '4 R's' of the digital age: responsibility, respect, resilience and critical reasoning should be consistently reinforced," Ms Inman Grant said.

"Even if your child is too young to use social media, parents can model good behaviour and engage with them about what they're sharing online, to impart important values like consent and respect."

 

STATS ON CYBER-BULLYING

* One in four of all Australian primary and secondary students (an estimated 910,000 children) experience bullying at some stage during their time at school.

* One in five children reported being cyber bullied in the past 12 months.

* The costs to the Australian economy associated with bullying total around $2.3 billion.

* Bullying perpetrators are also 3.5 more likely to instigate family violence.

* 60 per cent of parents are worried about their child being cyber bullied.

* 88 per cent of parents think social media platforms don't do enough to prevent cyber bullying.

* 55 per cent of all of the parents we surveyed monitor their children's social media, and interestingly only half of those told their children that they did.

* 58.6 per cent of parents their children's school does not do enough to prevent cyber bullying, and an overwhelming 80.6 per cent do not think the government does enough to prevent it.

* The office of the eSafety Commissioner has received a total of 931 cyber-bullying complaints since 2015, 438 of which came in the past 13 months.

Source: nabtrade survey for Alannah & Madeline Foundation and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner

 

TOP FIVE TIPS FOR TALKING TO YOUNG CHILDREN ABOUT ONLINE SAFETY:

* Ask them what games or apps they're interested in and why

* Explore these apps and games together

* Debrief afterwards and discuss how to mitigate any risks or issues you've identified.

* Let them know they can come to you if they are upset about something they see or experience online.

* Check in regularly to keep the conversation going and know if you need to repeat steps 1-4.

Source: Office of the eSafety Commissioner

 

CYBER-BULLYING COMPLAINTS TO THE OFFICE OF THE ESAFETY COMMISSIONER

1 July 2016 - 30 June 2017: 305 complaints

1 July 2017 - 30 June 2018: 409 complaints

This represents a 34% increase in complaints through to the office.

931 complaints from 1 July 2015 to 25 July 2018.

 

Parents can go to www.esafety.gov.au/iparent for more information or the National Centre Against Bullying: www.ncab.org.au



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