AUSTRALIA’S leading cyber safety expert Susan McLean gave students and parents clear warnings about the dangers that lurk on the internet at two special presentations in Leongatha last week.
Ms McLean addressed Year 7 and 8 students at Mary MacKillop College on Wednesday before the school hosted a second presentation opened to school parents and the broader community later in the evening.
Ms McLean was a member of Victoria Police for 27 years where she became known as ‘Cyber Cop’. She took her first call on cyber bullying back in 1994 and has been dedicated to the protection of children in the online space ever since.
Now, as a consultant, she is contracted to work with the AFL and Cricket Australia among other high profile roles.
“I’ve travelled around the world to deliver these presentations and it doesn’t matter where you are, all of the issues are consistent.
“It doesn’t matter that you’re in a rural area. Geographic isolation is not a protective factor.”
Ms McLean’s presentation included some mind-blowing statistics.
Every minute, 1.8 million Snapchat images are posted, 990,000 Tinder swipes are made and 4.1 million videos are loaded onto YouTube.
Her key message for parents was that they cannot be their child’s best friend when it comes to setting limits with their online activity.
“Children are tech savvy, but there is a massive gap between what they can do and what they can understand.”
She said no children under the age of 13 should have access to social media. It’s a minimum age requirement.
“We need to keep kids away from it as long as we can. The internet is a very adult place.
“We have to give kids balance and keep them grounded in the real world.”
Ms McLean said that if children didn’t talk back to online predators, the crimes can’t happen.
In the home, she said children must not have access to their devices in bedrooms or bathrooms.
Children should only have internet access in a family area of the house.
“You have to know where your child is online as you would in the real world.”
To protect children from cyber bullies, she said lines of communication should always be open between children and their parents.
“No matter what, you child should know that they can talk to you. We must help young people speak up.”
She told parents that should they suspect their child is a victim of cyber bullying, or may be a target of predators, to not engage with the perpetrators.
“Don’t delete anything, don’t shut the device down – take it directly to police.”
Ms McLean said online pornography was so accessible that children as young as eight are exposed to it.
She said the children of parents who do the right thing can still be exposed to pornography.
“I call it the lice concept. One child can infest the rest.
“It’s why we’ve seen a rise in child on child sexual assault. The only way to learn that behaviour at such a young age is to copy what they’ve seen or what they’ve been shown.”
Ms McLean described YouTube as a “cesspool”.
“If you can think of it, you can find it.”
As for gaming, she said parents should have more control.
“If you child wants to play a game, you play it first. You also need to set limits, for example three nights a week for 30 minutes.
“The problem is with some games they don’t have an end.”
Ms McLean said that if children need (not want) a phone, the safest option are the models that only send and receive calls – nothing else – which are still available.
“They’ll be so embarrassed that they’ll never use them anyway!”
She explained the legal dangers of parents sharing photographs of other people’s children without permission.
There were many more areas covered in the presentation, including how to tighten controls on devices.
She urged parents to share her messages with at least 10 others.
Her book, Sexts, Texts and Selfies has everything you need to know about how to keep your kids safe.