Schools get groundbreaking new online safety resources

Schools get groundbreaking new online safety resources

A groundbreaking new framework will guide and assist Australian teachers to help young people deal with growing and ever-changing risks online.

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%.

The ‘Best Practice Framework for Online Safety Education’, launched by the eSafety Commissioner, represents the first-ever resource of its kind for Australian schools. It includes a suite of support materials in consultation with over 80 education authorities, organisations and expert individuals.

In addition to teachers expressing the need for a dedicated curriculum to help keep kids safer online, eSafety research released earlier this year, revealed three-quarters of Australian teens wanted online safety information delivered through trusted channels – principally through their school.

“Educators and parents alike need to understand that not all online safety education content and approaches are created equal. This Framework helps to ensure we are providing educators with guidance on online safety programs that work,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, said.

“Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that young Australians are consistently being armed with the resilience and critical reasoning skills they need to discern online fact from fiction, to effectively respond to abuse and unwanted contact and to ultimately, manage online conflict.”

The comprehensive Framework, designed to address the needs of every student, at every year level, provides guidance on: students’ rights and responsibilities in a digital age; resilience building; current and emerging risks; help-seeking; how to obtain guidance and support; and professional learning and capacity building for schools and their staff.

The Framework is also an important component of eSafety’s work delivering on recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Royal Commission called for eSafety to oversee the development of a framework and resources that support schools in creating child-safe online environments.

eSafety commissioned Queensland University of Technology to undertake research as part of the consultation process to inform the Framework. The research report’s lead author, Professor Kerryann Walsh, said that the Framework was the culmination of a worldwide review and input from numerous school stakeholders.

“The idea of a framework was welcomed by everyone we spoke with and there was a sense that education is a crucial part of our national online safety response and a powerful tool for behaviour change,” Professor Walsh said.

“Having the new Framework means that everyone in the education sector is talking the same language when it comes to understanding the issues and developing ways to enable students to be safe, positive, and well online.”

Another initiative helping schools raise awareness about cybersafety is Palo Alto Networks’ Cyber Safe Kids program.

Steve Manley, Regional Vice President ANZ at Palo Alto Networks, said the program helps raise awareness in a way that young people can understand and can respond to.

“The Cyber Safe Kids program has the tools and resources available, from industry-leading experts, to be able to pass on essential insights to our children. Parents and educators are highly influential in teaching and sharing this information,” Manley told The Educator.

“The initiative's role is to make these online safety skills accessible and easily transferable with the education and hands-on experience our children need to secure their digital future.”