Cyber safety should be taught in the National School Curriculum

The world has totally changed with access to the internet. There are those who now live almost exclusively in a cyberworld.

There is probably no greater threat to the safety of our citizens—especially our young people—than the misuse of this great resource. The internet can be our greatest asset but also our greatest risk factor.

That is why cybersafety is such an important issue. We need an Australian population that is cybersavvy, much more aware and alert than we are now. We are constantly playing catch-up as cybercriminals become more and more sophisticated.

As the internet expands and develops, with faster speeds and greater reach, the threat grows. This is why we need to educate Australians on how to protect themselves and their families.

The West Australian newspaper today said that ‘according to Telstra, Aussie kids aged between 10 and 17 are online for an average of two hours a day—amongst the highest internet usage rates in the world’.

Do we know whether this is two hours of safety, enjoyment and learning, or two hours a day of risk?

This is a national problem that in my opinion needs a national coordinated solution. Everything I have seen and done on this issue tells me that education is really the key. That is why I believe that cyber safety should be and must be made a part of the national curriculum.

Young Australians need the skills to protect themselves; it needs to be part of what they learn. In the United Kingdom online safety is a compulsory part of the national curriculum for children aged five and upwards.

It is not okay when a child suffers abuse because they did not know how to protect themselves from an online sexual predator, who was pretending to be another 13-year-old girl. It is not okay that a teenager takes their own life because they do not know how to protect themselves from the cyber bullying that is so rife.

I believe that cyber safety needs to be part of a national curriculum so that current and future generations of Australians will know how better to protect themselves online. They certainly need online safety knowledge and skills to be part of their learning environment.

I understand very well the challenges that this presents in relation to the National Curriculum. But I have delivered cyber safety presentations in schools right across my electorate for the past three years.

I recognise the risk and the threat to our young people and I want them to be better able to protect themselves and their families in their online activities. These sessions have often involved federal and state police officers, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Australian Federal Police and Western Australian Police for their support.

Their contribution has been outstanding. They have assisted me in educating great young people. I have provided sessions not only for primary and secondary students but also sessions tailored to parents and the broader community.

This is how I know that there is a need, and what a great part of the answer is. This year I have been asked to provide sessions from preschool through to year 12.

But it is the information the younger primary school children give me in these sessions that worries me the most.

It is very clear that the threat is real and constant. The bullying they can be subject to can be 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is often the quiet and vulnerable who are the victims. Equally, it can be those who are popular, or it can be the talented sports person or the academic.

The number of online friends on social websites for eight- to 10-year-olds I meet I find to be extraordinary.

They certainly do not know the majority of these friends in person. For them, issues such as sexting and the risks associated with geo-tagging are ones they face on a daily basis—and, as I said, it can be 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Also, there are continuous changes to the applications they have access to, so the risk changes constantly.

I want our great young people to have the skills to manage online risks. This is their world and they probably will be involved in the cyber world for most of their lives.

They are also part of the answer, because they are the ones who will help to educate other generations, older generations, who were not brought up with this technology.

I believe that education is a major part of the answer. That is why I feel so strongly about this issue.