Cybersafety Summit 2012

Today’s post comes from regular contributor Catherine Hainstock of Vermont Secondary College. Catherine tells us about her experiences at the recent National Cybersafety Summit.

On June 12th, I attended the National Cybersafety Summit in Canberra with two students from the school.  They were select members from the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) who took part in online forum discussions to help inform the government on cyber safety initiatives. The purpose of the Summit was to bring students, parents and teachers together with relevant industries and government sectors to discuss “how to keep young Australians safe online”.

The summit was hosted by Project Rockit team members and formally opened by Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Students attended sessions on Managing Your Reputation Online led by Ruby Rose, MTV presenter and spokesperson for HeadSpace. They discussed strategies for protecting their reputations, and the social and legal consequences of harassment, cyberbullying and sexting with the Federal Police. Students  also shared some opinions including the inconsistencies in dealing with bullies at school and that many of the Cybersafety resources used in schools were either not interesting or age-appropriate.

They then attended a session with ABC’s Good Game hosts, Bajo and Hex on Digital Etiquette and Gaming. The culture and nature of gaming was discussed including bullies and online trolls. Teens shared that there is pressure to keep up with obligations to the team in online games. They also said that parents should take more of an interest in what’s going on in their kids’ gaming world.

Adults also attended a  Digital Etiquette and Gaming session. They were surprised to hear that the average age of a gamer was 37 years old. Parental discussion focused on the language and bullying in games. Bajo and Hex urged adults to take interest in their children’s gaming, to keep lines of communication open, set limits and discuss online friendships. Above all the room agreed that it was important to help kids understand that “it’s only a game!” and to not invest too much emotion in it. The adults also attended a presentation by the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation outlining their eSmart Schools program.

The afternoon panel discussion was the highlight for most participants. Some excellent questions and discussion developed:

    • Should teachers and students be friends on Facebook (or other social networks)?
    • Should we stop under 13s from going on Facebook?
    • Should kids be using technology as an emotional outlet?
    • What is the duty of care for teachers in cyberbullying incidents that happen outside of the school?

The show stopper of the day though came from one of my own students. Her question and comment was that not enough was being done to educate young Australians about the mental health consequences of cyberbullying. She wanted to know why we don’t teach people that all the negative online behaviour (and bullying in general) leads to depression, self harm and suicide. She felt the statistics and incidents should not be taboo topics. The entire room fell silent as she spoke.

I think all of us left the summit with much to reflect on and some excellent strategies and directions. I feel privileged to have been a part of the discussion and will be discussing ideas with my Principal for new initiatives.

Thanks to Catherine for sharing her reflection on the event. You can find out more about Catherine’s work on her blog TL Under Construction.

eSmart schools

The news released yesterday that Victorian schools will be able to gain access to funding and support to become eSmart schools is a brilliant step towards cybersafety.

The program developed by the Allanah and Madeline Foundation and trialled by a number of schools is now set to be rolled out to Victorian schools.

With funding, training, information and actions for students, teachers and students, eSmart schools will have a number of resources to hand to help avoid cyberbullying and policies to help deal with it if it does occur.

Detailed information is available on the eSmart schools website.

Digital Citizenship wiki

A very useful resource is the Digital Citizenship wiki, which caters for students in grades 1-12. The wiki explains more:

This is a resource for grade level teachers to prepare students to use technology appropriately and being mindful of the citizenship skills they already possess. Come back often as this WIKI will be continually updated.

Digital citizenship wiki

There are links to topics such as cyberbullying, plagiarism and copyright as well as links to relevant videos. A very useful site which will be added to over time.

Stemming the tide of cyber bullying

This article was published in today’s Age newspaper and the results of the summit seem to be a step in the right direction regarding the problem of cyber bullying.

Stemming the tide of cyber bullying


October 13, 2009

The Age cyberbullying 

Korumburra Secondary College classmates William Crawford and Courtney Graue were among 240 students at the state’s first cyber bullying summit. Photo: Pat Scala

A year ago, Korumburra Secondary College student Courtney Graue became the victim of a sustained campaign of cyber bullying. What started off as schoolyard taunts and social exclusion soon transcended into the online world: derogatory messages posted on her MySpace page, claims that she didn’t have any female friends, even comments about her appearance.

”I guess girls can get jealous of different things and one girl in particular would tell me I was ugly and that I only hung out with guys because no girls would want to talk to me,” said the year 10 student.

”In the end I talked to my teachers, and even to my parents, and they sorted it out. I got over it eventually, but at the time I got fairly upset by it all, and it certainly does impact your life.”

Courtney’s story is emblematic of a much broader trend: the latest research from Edith Cowan University suggests that on any given day, about 100,000 Australian children will be bullied at school. And between 10-15 per cent are cyber bullied through social networking websites, instant online messaging, mobile phones or other forms of digital technology.

Yesterday, Courtney and classmates William Crawford and Daniel Whittingham were among 240 year 10 students who took part in the state’s first cyber bullying summit.

The conference, involving 60 public and private schools, was convened by the Brumby Government after it became so concerned by the extent of cyber bullying that it decided to seek the advice of young people on the best ways to tackle it.

While the Government has tried to crack down on the problem by updating bullying guidelines and blocking access to video-sharing websites such as YouTube and MySpace through a filter system, experts agree that past policies have not done enough.

Appearing at the conference yesterday, Premier John Brumby admitted that the ever-changing nature of digital technology had serious consequences.

”The openness and ease of online communication comes with a downside,” he said.

The summit comes only months after the death of 14-year-old Geelong schoolgirl Chanelle Rae who, according to her mother Karen, took her own life after reading something posted about her on the internet.

Edith Cowan researcher Donna Cross said it was hard to quantify how many youth suicides had been caused by cyber bullying, but there was little doubt it was a contributing factor in some cases.

The message

Cybersafety and Wellbeing Initiative

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation have launched a major new Cybersafety and Wellbeing Initiative.

Cybersafety and Wellbeing Initiative
Cybersafety and Wellbeing Initiative
A pilot program is to be implemented into 150 schools from September. The website explains the program in more detail:

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation’s Cybersafety and Wellbeing Initiative aims to make cybersafety a normal part of every young person’s life by equipping them to use technologies in ways that protect them from the associated risks.

The development of the initiative is informed by a number of cybersafety experts from across Australia.  The first major focus of the initiative is to help schools to create a cultural norm of smart, safe and responsible use of communications technologies.  The initiative will: 

  • help schools develop policies and practices encouraging students to use technology responsibly
  • point schools to teaching resources on cybersafety, but also to resources to help them create a safe, respectful and caring environment
  • encourage schools to embrace the positives of technology for teaching practice and enhance young people’s learning
  • establish a system for schools to provide evidence that they are actively implementing these policies and practices
  • reduce the digital divide between adults and young people, so adults can become a credible source of advice on avoiding the risks of cyberspace.

Dr Judith Slocombe CEO of The Alannah and Madeline makes an interesting point:

It is important to remember that this is an issue of behaviour, more than it is of technology. We really need to get serious about behaviour and support schools to focus on building a culture of respect and caring in addition to teaching the traditional academic subjects.

As a profession that is passionate about embedding the use of technology in education, we should applaud the introduction of this initiative. It is wonderful to see that the negative issues of internet use are going to be addressed and acted upon.


After the tragic consequences of the recent incident in Geelong that apparently had links to cyberbullying, here are some websites that teachers and students may like to know about. Jo Robinson, from Orygen Youth Mental Health Services suggests:

Other resources include:

  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • SANE helpline 1800 187 263

The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has a Cybersafe  Classroom page while the Australian Media and Communications Authority has developed cyber(smart:) resources for students (of all ages), parents, schools and libraries. ACMA also offers Internet Safety Presentations

There was also an article in Saturday’s Age that might be of interest to teachers and parents.

Don’t demonise internet

The following letters were published in today’s Australian under the heading ‘Don’t demonise the internet.

WHILE it’s understandable that the bereaved parents will look for someone or something to blame when their daughter kills herself (“Chanelle, 14, joins college’s tragic suicide toll”, 22/7), the truth is that the vast majority of young people who take their own lives have depression, usually unrecognised and undiagnosed. Youthbeyondblue strives to make people understand that depression is an illness. Chemicals in the brain, which regulate how one thinks, feels and behaves, get out of balance. No amount of love and caring or effort to build up the self-esteem of someone suffering from depression can alter their misperception that their situation is hopeless.

Demonising the internet is unwise; teaching young people how to use it safely and what to do when cyber-bullied is preferable.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
(Adolescent psychologist)
Balwyn, Vic

FOR far too many years the issue of cyber-bullying of and by young people has been placed on the merry-go-round of “it’s not my problem”. Schools have used the excuse that because it happened out of school hours, it’s not their problem. Police have said it’s not their problem, so parents have returned to the schools demanding that they deal with it to be sent away again.

Whilst the actual bullying comments may have been posted out of school hours, when cyber-bullying is between students in the same school, it does become a school problem. Schools have to deal with the fallout and are confronted with fractured friendships and the breakdown of the social cohesion of the class group involved. Invariably kids will take sides, and much of what occurs online is continued in the playground.

International research and evidence of best practice tell us that cyber-bullying is a whole-of-community problem and one that must be addressed with the coordination and cooperation of a range of professionals. Schools must do more than just have a policy that says don’t do it. Teachers must be given the training to understand these issues and deal with them promptly and confidently. Parents must embrace cyberspace and feel confident in their ability to set boundaries and rules and to instil in their children a sense of respect and responsibility for both themselves and others when online.

Finally, and most importantly, kids need to be taught about cyberspace and it must start early. The how, what, when and why. Kids have the technical skills but no understanding of the reality of cyberspace.

Susan McLean
(Susan McLean is a former Victoria Police officer who specialised in cyber-bullying and young people)
East Doncaster, Vic