Studies show that nearly four out of five Australian children aged 5 to 14 use the internet, and since the COVID-19 pandemic, recent surveys have found that screen time has increased by more than 500%.
This statistic might be celebrated as a triumph for digital literacy if it wasn’t for the fact that education is one of the most breached sectors when it comes to cyberattacks.
Read more: Australian education sector increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks – study
Another problematic factor in the proliferation of digital devices is the unfortunate reality that cyberbullying is on the rise, exacerbating the mental health issues of many young people across Australia.
While educators can act quick when instances of cyberbullying on school grounds are brought to their attention, tackling the problem becomes difficult when bullies hide behind their keyboards and intimidate their victims anonymously.
In 2020, ESET, a software company specialising in cybersecurity, launched Safer Kids Online, a website and corresponding newsletter which features blogs, vlogs, parental guidance and expert insight “to help children enjoy the full potential of the internet in a secure digital world”.
Kelly Johnson, ESET Country Manager (Australia), said schools need to be more careful in monitoring for bullying behaviour, before and especially after anti-bullying activities.
“Teachers need to be aware that bullying may well happen after an anti-bullying presentation and that extra vigilance is more important than ever,” Johnson told The Educator.
“Any report of bullying needs to be dealt with as promptly as possible to encourage students to come forward when they are bullied. Schools also need to respond to bullying complaints in a fair and impartial manner. Students need to be shown that bullying of any kind has real consequences and that victims of bullying will be protected.”
Johnson said ministries and school boards need to ensure that teachers and school staff have the resources they need to pursue bullying complaints.
“Since many teachers complain that competing work demands make them less able to deal with bullying, schools need to recognize that anti-bullying activities take priority over other teacher responsibilities,” she said.
“Schools can reinforce to victims of bullying and the bullies themselves that this kind os intimidation will not be tolerated. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, and a focus on student resilience will play a key in any successful program.”
Below, Johnson shares 5 tips schools and families can use to keep students safe online
- Ensure your devises are protected!! Activate (it only takes a few minutes) Parental Controls on both the devise and through your security software program.
- Manage screen time and for younger children, ensure they’re online in an open area so parents can monitor.
- Talk to your kids about how to detect suspicious emails/texts, turn off your webcam camera or slide the camera shield over when not in use.
- Parents & teachers should monitor any gaming or programs to ensure they are age appropriate.
- Continue to keep up to date on cyber threats and use resources to educate kids.