AFP Initiative to Teach Kindergarten Children Online Safety
Recently the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and their state and territory colleagues will start teaching online safety to kindergarten children. This initiative came after it emerged that children, as young as four, have posted explicit images of themselves and been groomed by sexual predators online.
The Federal Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, Angus Taylor, announced that cyber security training will for the first time, be taught at kindergartens until the second year of primary school. The Minister said that “our law enforcement agencies are seeing shocking incidents of children as young as four producing sexually explicit material, uploading it to social media, and subsequently engaging with online child sex offenders.”
At this stage it is unclear if the new initative will be just rolled out to government schools or all schools (including non-government schools) around Australia.
This new initiative will mean that the AFP will in coming weeks, train state and territory Police officers to deliver safety lessons at kindergartens and the first two years of primary school. Cyber safety classes already exist for years three to 12 under the AFP’s ThinkUKnow program.
The ThinkUKnow program originated in the United Kingdom by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and was developed for an Australian Audience by the AFP in 2009. ThinkUKnow delivers presentations to parents and children on a variety of topics such as sexting, cyber bullying, online child exploitation, grooming, online privacy, and importantly what to do when something goes wrong.
A spokeswoman for the AFP said its assessment centre had seen an increase in referrals involving younger children and that some of these matters have involved unsupervised young children playing with devices and accidently uploading images to social media.
Commander Lesa Gale noted further that the AFP along with other organisations internationally had seen a trend towards victims “getting younger and younger.”
In response to these comments made by the AFP, schools should start considering what they could teach to students to better prepare and protect them against the dangers of predators online. At the same time, schools should consider whether their staff need to update their cyber security training to help educate students and to better understand the effects of online activity on students. If schools have a kindergarten or Early Learning Centre, training should also be provided to staff on those areas. This can include teaching about the techniques used by predators online to influence child or providing some general guidance about how the criminal law addresses online predatory behaviour.
Safer Internet Day
On 6 February 2018, Safer Internet Day 2018 was launched at a worldwide event held to help encourage a better internet. This year’s theme was Create, connect and share respect: A better starts with you.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is the official Committee for Safe Internet Day in Australia and is responsible for driving the initiative nationally.
The eSafety Commissioner provides resources to assist schools to get involved including information for internal staff events and a free virtual classroom to assist in educating members of the school community about how to appropriately behave when using the internet.
How can schools better protect children?
In a world where the dangers of the internet are more well known and the techniques used by perpetrators are becoming more complex, the only preparation for students is through education. However, education can only go so far, as Deanne Carson, Co-Founder of Body Safety Australia, points out that: “Traditional cyber safety education does a good job of laying basic ground rules for internet safety, but fails to empower students in becoming aware and informed of grooming techniques and how to reach out for help.”
William Kelly is a School Governance reporter. He can be contacted here.