Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cybersafety Outreach

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a Cybersafety Outreach seminar provided by ACMA. I knew this was an important topic, but had previously dismissed it as more of a high school problem. It was confronting to learn about the internet culture that very young children are immersed in.

What are they up to online?
This was probably the most eye-opening part of the seminar for me. From 8 year olds with Facebook to Moshi-monsters to late night gaming on Nintendo-dsi, I can see that primary school internet use is something I had underestimated.

The most concerning element for me was the idea of children using very adult tools such as youtube and facebook, and the concepts that they may be exposed to and be subsequently desensitised to. ACMA's cybersmart schools gateway provides fantastic resources regarding what children of varying ages may be up to online. They break internet behaviour into age groups, and provide comprehensive information on the stage of cyber development, as well as resources for teachers. This will certainly be my first stop for any class I work with in the future.   

Developing a Cybercitizen

ACMA has developed a cybercitizen profile based on four categories that describe the "skills, knowledge and behaviours or capabilities" (ACMA Cybersmart, accessed 19/4/11) that are required to be safe online, and describe these stages for various age groups. The four capabilities are;
  • Positive online behaviour
  • Digital media literacy
  • Peer and personal safety
  • E-security

For me, the thought of teaching cybersafety seems a lot more achievable when broken down into these user-friendly categories. I love their use of the word positive for online behaviour, rather than simply telling chidlren what the can't do. At the end of the day, we want our students to have access to the wealth of information that is offered by Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, we just need to teach them how to do it safely.

A Side Note on Bullying
The big media buzz at the moment is cyberbullying, and is a very serious issue plaguing many students in our classrooms. I came across this video recently, and thought this would be a great opportunity to share it. For me, the message is that there are different ways for children to stand up for one another, and that a small gesture to a bullying victim can go a long way, and I am sure the message in the advert could be carried across to the cyberbullying context. And take note of some of the comments on the video (if you visit the original Youtube site); an example of some negative online behaviour that we don't want our students to be a part of! 



  1. Dear Liz,

    Loved your video and I agree that we should be empowering students with strategies for dealing with bullies, either as victims or bystanders. I have had some personal experience with cyber-bullying and it's a very slippery customer and insidious. Part of the problem at the time was that cyber-bullying was such a new phenomenon that no one seemed to know how to deal with it.

    A few years ago I attended a cyber-safety seminar led by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg. It was mainly aimed at parents but a significant amount of cyber-bullying takes place at school and the perpetrators quite often hide behind the anonymity that technology can offer. Like many issues it needs an integrated school/community/home approach. Many parents are not aware of how tech-savvy their children are or of the potential pitfalls of facilitating their children's underage participation in social sharing sites.

    Dr Carr-Gregg has a blog (http://carrgregg.blogspot.com/) which has some useful information on bullying. His latest post is about a cyber-safety help button offered for free to any computer by the Australian Government (http://www.dbcde.gov.au/online_safety_and_security/cybersafetyhelpbutton_download). It seems like a step in the right direction for cyber-safety.

  2. Hi Jo,

    Thanks for the great comment. It is interesting that you have experience with cyberbullying. Were the people doing the bullying bullies in the traditional non-cyber sense? Or were they only bullies online? I imagine that cyber bullying would be carried out by people who wouldn't traditionally be considered bullies, due to the anonymity of the web.

    Also I agree that parents assisting their children in social networking may not be aware of what they are really facilitating. I understand the theory behind parents who let their children sign up for facebook etc, in that they can watch what their children are up to; however I think that if the parents are slightly naive to the cyber world they may easily miss what is really going on.

  3. Hi again Liz,

    In the particular instance I was talking about, the bullying went across the board. It was a power game by a particularly dominant individual who had been thwarted. It was very difficult to stop and direct methods didn't work. It eventually petered out by gradually empowering the bullied person. But I first came across cyberbullying in a blog set up by a year 9 - anonymously, which was full of gossip and rumours about various members of the year group (not so anonymously) and that person was not really someone you would immediately think of as a bully in the traditional sense. I believe that person didn't originally set out to "cyberbully", it just got out of hand....and I think this is where we as teachers can have the most effect in educating students about what constitutes cyberbullying early on and teaching them values that hopefully help them avoid doing it or being affected by it.