Back to School: Learing eSafety
Everyone goes to all available lengths to keep their loved ones safe from the dangers of the world — both offline and, increasingly, online.
The internet has made its home in every corner of our lives — and the younger you are, the more of an impact the internet is likely to have had in your life. Of course, some of the time this is a good thing — the internet connects us with people all over the world, and provides new ways to work, learn, and play. But sometimes it can be hard to understand both the benefits and the dangers of the internet, both for kids and their parents.
What should I do?
Do you know what information is being collected about you when you use the internet?
For most people, it’s hard to nail down an answer to this question. As the world becomes more and more aware of the privacy and security risks of rampant data collection, people are starting to demand a right to choose what data is collected about them, and what companies are allowed to do with that data.
Data safety and choices about data collection becomes even more important when the people in question are kids.
For most kids, the internet can be a wonderful playground where they can have fun, connect, and get creative with their friends. And while this is usually true, growing up submerged in the depths of the internet comes with some risks. Safety-conscious parents should make sure that ‘eSafety’ is at the top of any child’s back-to-school list. They’re going to need it every day.
The reality is, it’s really hard — impossible, even — to monitor all of your kid’s online activity.
We believe the best way to help your child stay safe online isn’t necessarily to directly limit or ban certain corners of the internet. Sometimes, these limits might be helpful. But seeing as the internet is such an important part of everyone’s lives, it’s better to help your kids develop a well-rounded understanding of how to use their own best judgement to keep themselves safe online.
Technology was often banned in my life. After I racked up a $250 dialup bill playing Runescape, my mum kicked me off the internet. All fun things cost money I guess. TV wasn’t often banned, but, to be honest, I would’ve been cool with no TV. A screen that just gives visual stimulus — you aren’t required to give anything back, you just have to stay on the couch. The TV is an idiot box, computers are Pandora’s box. My parents didn’t think I spent enough time doing homework, so passwords were put on computers to limit my tech time. But I could always crack a password with a keylogger or bypass the Windows XP login screen using a Windows 98 CD. Simpler times. Now, there are more tools than ever to work around household internet bans. You could turn on a VPN to bypass firewalls, install a Windows or Linux boot USB, there are endless opportunities. I think I wasted more time trying to crack into computers than I ever did on homework, but I don’t regret it. Homework was boring…getting into computers was fun. I don’t think my mum ever really understood or embraced the internet, she still struggles today, so looking back it all makes sense. The best thing to do is learn — about the internet, computer games, all of it. Learn by doing. Explore, but know how to do it safely. The internet is a dangerous place. I’ve poked my head around some dark corners. You can’t always stop kids wandering into dangerous places, instead, education is the best defence. Chris McCabe, COO, Oxen
Here’s a few basic principles we think every kid should learn before they head back to school
1. Everything on the internet is permanent
What happens on the internet, stays on the internet… Forever
There are no takesies backsies on the internet. Once you’ve posted, uploaded, or sent something online — it’s up there forever. You can check out an internet archive called the Wayback Machine, to see just how much information remains recorded long after it’s ‘removed’ by the original creator. But, often there’s no way to know where your information will end up, who will have access to it, or what they might do with it.
It’s important to always think before you post:
Who is going to see this? Your teachers? Your friends at school?
How many people will see it? Everyone at school? Everyone in Australia?
Do I trust those people?
Am I comfortable with all of them (and maybe more) seeing this?
How will this affect me in the future?
Remember, it’s not about fear-mongering. We want to encourage kids to be creative and explore in their own ways and at their own pace. You are helping them develop a responsible and emotionally resilient framework that will help them to reflect on their actions before they hit post.
2. Think carefully about what information you’re giving away
The internet wants to know your location
Often, when you install an app or sign up to a website, it’s going to ask for some information about you.
Even really basic things, like your name, date of birth, and email are extremely valuable pieces of information.
Do you really trust this website, app, or company with that information?
Do you know that they will handle it with care and store it securely?
It’s worth wondering why they’re asking for this info — do they actually need it to provide the service you’re signing up for? It would be more than a bit creepy if a stranger on the street walked up to you and asked, ‘when’s your birthday,’ so it’s worth showing the same scepticism towards people, apps, and websites that are online.
The real dangers of fake news
We get so much of our information about the world from the internet. But, as the rise of fake news has shown us, you can’t believe everything you read — especially on social media. It’s important to have a conversation with your kids about fact-checking things they see on news websites, social media posts, and elsewhere on the internet.
Good critical thinking skills will come in handy in all parts of their lives, so helping them to develop those skills when it comes to fact-checking information will stand them in good stead throughout their time in school. You can start by picking a topical issue and exploring how different sources talk about it with them. You can guide them through what parts to focus on — does everyone tell the whole story? Why are some parts left out?
eSafety: Priority number one — at school and beyond
If you have kids gearing up to go back to school this year, it’s crucial to have conversations about eSafety with them. They might not want to hear it — there’ll probably be some eye-rolling from them, at the very least. But as a parent, it’s your responsibility to give your kids the tools they need to stay safe online.
It can be a dangerous digital world out there — start a conversation about eSafety and keep your kids safe this school year.