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Let’s reboot home and classroom conversations to keep children safe in our increasingly digital world

COVID-19 has had a dramatic – and not always negative – impact on our lives, changing the way we go about our lives.

It will, hopefully, leave us better and more community-minded people.

It has certainly reinforced just how powerful digital technology can be and what a boon it has been to our lives. Technology is designed to be collaborative – and in our school community, it allowed us to continue to educate our students when the bricks and mortar classrooms were declared out of bounds.

It has also opened the world to our children, connecting them globally, transporting them to places they could only previously dream of, and providing them with a veritable fountain of information and knowledge.

Sadly, not everything about the power of digital technology is positive, which had me thinking that it is timely to reboot conversations, at home and in the classroom, that will help to ensure that the next generation stays safe in an increasingly digital world.

When tackling the potential pitfalls of digital technology among our young people, we at St Andrew’s School strongly believe the best results are achieved in partnership with the home. It is only when we are in sync that the desired outcome – stimulated, happy, informed, safe children – can be achieved.

I am thinking here of shared key policies and expectations, and offer a few pointers I trust will put us all on a shared path to these outcomes.

Let us start with what is probably the most vexing – privacy.

The first step is to update privacy settings on all platforms and devices. But that is not enough; we also need to impress upon our children that when they post something to a large audience, they cannot take it back. It is out there, forever – and for that reason alone, they need to take great care in what they post about themselves and others.

They need to think about what they are considering sharing and understand that once they hit the ‘send’, ‘publish’ or ‘post’ button, they will be leaving a lifelong digital footprint.

We need to remind them, too, that while they have a right to privacy, they also have a responsibility to respect others.

At home, families can further take several easy steps to enhance cyber safety. It’s a great idea to keep all hardware and devices in a public space where, without being a snoop, you enjoy an overview of what is going on.

It is also wise to have real cyber safety conversations with your children and to set realistic and age-appropriate boundaries and rules, daily limits and regular screen-free time. Avoid banning, though, as research has shown time and again that it is counterproductive.

And yes, it is okay to say ‘no’, especially when it comes to social media platforms that, quite frankly, are unsuitable for primary-aged children.

Remember, too, that you are not alone on this journey. We are here to assist, so don’t hesitate to speak to us about any concerns you may have. You can also tap into our regular articles from our School Counsellor in The Bell, attend presentations on cyber safety as they arise, and visit the St Andrew’s SchoolTV page, which has a raft of useful resources for parents on the safe use of digital technology.

Finally, there is a wealth of valuable information on the Office of the ESafety Commissioner’s website – www.esafety.gov.au – and the Stay Smart Online website at www.staysmartonline.gov.au.

 

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  • St Andrew’s School is a South Australian independent, co-educational specialist primary school providing excellence in education from playgroup through to early years and on to Year 7. Principal Deb Dalwood – an International Baccalaureate School – UNESCO Associated School.