ThinkUKnow

I think all of us understand why there is a great need for resources in relation to children’s safety online.

ThinkUKnow is a free, evidence based cybersafety program that provides presentations to Australian parents, carers, teachers and students.

It provides information on the technologies young people use, on the challenges they may face and, importantly, on how those challenges can be overcome.

Presentations are delivered face to face or digitally.

ThinkUKnow aims to provide parents with the tools to create a safer online environment for young people in their care.

The presentations cover what young people say, see and do online.

They cover topics such as social-media reputation management, cyberbullying, sexting, online grooming, online gaming, inappropriate content, privacy management, identity theft, how to protect devices and how to report matters when things go wrong.

The program bridges the knowledge gap between adults and young people so that everyone has an understanding of the roles they play and what they can do if something goes wrong online.

The adult and youth presentations have been designed to align to ensure adults receive complementary information to assist them in communicating with children and young people about the technology they use.

It is becoming increasingly urgent to bridge the digital generational gap—I know this through the presentations I do myself—ensuring parents, teachers and carers are vigilant for the signs of online dangers.

In 2015, the AFP received more than 11,000 reports of online child exploitation.

Predators are very clever at exploiting vulnerable young people exploring the online environment, so it is more important than ever that we know the risks our children may be exposed to and how to minimise these risks, including where to report problems.

Educating parents and teachers about how to keep our children safe online has never been more vital.

This is why I have given hundreds of cybersafety presentations to schools, community groups and parents.

In 2015-16, the ThinkUKnow volunteers delivered more than one presentation each day of the year, a total of 386, to more than 10,000 parents, carers and teachers.

They are doing a great job.

In 2015-16, state and territory police delivered ThinkUKnow presentations to more than 150,000 school students from year 3 through to year 12.

ThinkUKnow is a vital initiative that demonstrates the commitment of the government to educating our children on how to stay safe, respectful and resilient online.

The majority of states and territories across Australia are signed partners with ThinkUKnow, including WA Police, Northern Territory Police, SA Police, the New South Wales Police Force, Tasmania Police and the Queensland Police Service.

ThinkUKnow is yet another example of the work the government and the Australian Federal Police are doing working together to keep our children safe online, as is the work the government is doing with the eSafety Commissioner.

When you look at the ThinkUKnow website you see the practical tools—how to have fun, how to stay in control, how to report—and a great cybercafe.

It covers a range of different issues in how to have fun—in chatting, in instant messaging, in emails and mobiles, in chat rooms, on social networking sites, in file sharing and gaming—and gives very practical support for young people.

In the ‘How to report’ section it explains how a lot of young people do not understand who they could be talking to, where those people are and what they actually might want from that young person.

They are told on the ThinkUKnow site that sometimes things make them feel upset, that people play games and share pictures.

Some things make them upset: they may say nasty things and upset children, or they might see things they do not like.

Of course it is not their fault. They need to tell their trusted adult straight away, to tell them about what is going on online.

They need to save any messages that may have upset that child so that they know—you can show that to the person, your trusted adult, that you are telling it to, whether it is your school, your teacher, the local police: whoever is required.

And there is no way these young people will get into trouble for this.

I continue my remarks around the ThinkUKnow program and the need for parents to be very well aware of what their children are involved with online.

ThinkUKnow is one initiative of this government; the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner is another, and a very valuable resource it is, too.

One of the elements of ThinkUKnow is a wonderful children’s line, a free service that is available for young people.

The number, for those who might be interested, is 0800 1111. What young people will find at the end of this line is a counsellor who is going to listen, who will not make judgements and who will be able to give them good advice.

When young people do something silly, make a mistake or come across things that scare them, they often will not talk to mum or dad.

From my experience of hundreds of cybersafety presentations and just listening to children in those presentations, I know a number of them choose not to tell mum or dad or even a trusted adult—and that is what I asked them to do, to find that trusted adult—because they are worried that mum and dad might punish them, take away the device or limit the amount of time they can have to use the device.

When that is the case for a young person, I really encourage them to call either the Kids Helpline or Childline, which is part of ThinkUKnow.

Not only is it, as I said, a free call for these young people who are worried about what is going on; it does not actually show up on their phone bill either.

Given that that can frequently be a very important issue for a young person, it is a very good service to help them deal with what they need to deal with online.

We know that the majority of people using the wonderful resource that is the internet are there for the right reasons, but, with the proportion that are not, children need to know how to stay safe, where to go for help and who to ask for help, which is where the Children’s eSafety Commissioner comes in.

When I talk to young people, I cover items such as Facebook and Twitter, their digital and online footprint, cyberbullying and the issue of online grooming for sex, which, unfortunately, is too common.

I talk about sexting and scams as well.

It is interesting that the youngest person that we have had so far was a young girl of 11.

Her mother rang my office after one of my presentations to say that after listening to the presentation her 11-year-old daughter had come home to say, ‘I’ve just realised I’m being groomed online for sex’—she is 11.

In some of the other presentations I have done, the young people who have come forward were 13 and 14.

When we talk about the issues around image based abuse and we see young people who take naked or semi-naked photos and share them, it is also a great concern.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I did a presentation to a school in the southern part of my electorate and I had a parent ring me since who said, ‘My 13-year-old daughter has just told me that she shared a completely naked photo of herself with her boyfriend.

They have now separated and he has chosen to share those photos with his new girlfriend and others.’

The thought of a 13-year-old girl sharing those photos in the first place is an issue, but then what happens to those photos and the fact that they are basically there forever is of real concern.

The fact that the child was able to talk to her father about this problem was a positive, and the fact that he was then going to talk to the eSafety Commissioner about how to get this dealt with was even better.

It is very important that young people assume that whatever they share could well be available for others to see, use and share almost indefinitely.

That is something that I frequently find young people do not understand, and even adults do not understand, in this space.

Simply pressing ‘Delete’ on your particular device is not enough because this is out on the internet.