It will be no surprise this week that I choose to write about the online news article (news.com.au) which appeared on Tuesday 23 August. The Manly Daily’s sensationalist headline on 25 August did nothing to represent the facts in the original article, nor reflect the actual content of the article that then followed. I want to be very clear there is no suggestion that any girl from St Luke’s has sent an inappropriate photo of herself or any suggestion that any boy at St Luke’s has been responsible for seeking such an image or posting onto the site. The e-Safety Commissioner who had actually looked at the site, concluded that the schools named were merely named as a way of seeking photos of any girl in that region.
Along with the obvious distress this article caused, it highlighted that there is a real concern about the world in which our children now live and that there are online predators in the community that are perhaps targeting school-aged children from any school. The issue, however, is an issue that is far greater than one that schools can solve, as it delves into what is at the core of society – that being, the teaching and upholding of strong family values.
Mia Freeman (in her Blog http://www.mamamia.com.au/teens-and-nude-selfies/) writes, “ Any parent who is not poring over the coverage of the appalling story of the Australian website… so they can understand what’s happening, and then talk about it with their kids is not doing their job.” She goes on to write, “Not only is it naïve to believe that social media education is not part of parenting in 2016, it’s utterly negligent”. She likens not teaching our children about the risks of the online world with not teaching them about the risks of getting into a car with a drunk driver.
While we as a school, along with all schools, will continue to take on a proactive teaching role about acceptable behaviour on social media. However, this teaching will be far more effective when it’s in support of what families are teaching at home. It has to be families who set the moral compass of their children. It is families who must teach their children about the kind of people they want them to be, it is families who need to say; this is who we are as a family, this is what we believe, this is how we behave and this is what we expect of you as a member of this family, rather than outsourcing to schools. Families might rightly choose to have a school that upholds those values but they must understand that a partnership between a school and a family is more successful when that partnership is one where the school is able to reinforce values that are first set at home.
I appreciate that for families this is new terrain and they are looking to schools for guidance. In addition to teaching and reinforcing your own family values, there are practical thins you can do but they will be tough and you will have to live with your children not always liking you. (In fact part of the job description as a parent is that you won’t be liked all of the time).
There are a number of products on the market that will allow you to view what your children are doing online when they are using the internet at home. I was recently talking to a parent who uses an App on his phone to see what his children are viewing. This App, KidsBlocker, gives him the ability to close the child’s access down. He did share that there have been times when his children have been cross with him, but he was prepared to be unpopular in order to keep his children safe online.
But just as when becoming a parent for the first time and you read every baby book to prepare you for this stage of life, now is the time to inform yourself in this area, because families are now being called on, more than ever before, to help their children navigate the unprecedented digital world that they are having to grow up in