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Family Zone and Cyber Safety

Last Tuesday evening , Family Zone presented their online protective tool to an enthusiastic group of parents and staff. Brett Lee, a regular Cyber Safety presenter at CHAC, was also in attendance as one of Family Zone’s Cyber Experts, to provide an update on the latest trends and relevant information.

Cyber Safety should be approached in the same way we approach Road Safety; through conversations with our children and explicit discussion of the risks, benefits and dangers. One of the clear messages of the evening was the need for online behaviour to be actively monitored both at school and at home. Family Zone is an effective tool used by many schools and families for this purpose. Their presentation was compelling and enlightening. All members of our community able to access the information provided by following this link.

The tool provides parents with a comforting degree of control over the use of technology in the home. Some of the features include the ability for parents to set scheduled screen time on all devices, the ability to disable certain functions on phones (e.g. camera), receive alerts when new apps are installed or even if the Family Zone app is uninstalled. As well, parents have access to app reviews by Cyber Experts employed by Family Zone. This is particularly useful when children request the installation of recently released apps, as the Family Zone reviews explicitly outline content and age appropriateness.

The modern technological age provides an online environment that provides us so many incredible opportunities, and this was highlighted and acknowledged by all who presented. Brett Lee’s presentation “Embracing the online world: Understanding and managing risk (which is also available via the Family Zone website) explored the accompanying challenges of managing this unlimited access. Our children potentially have access to data 24 hours a day and access to 3 billion people. It is important to recognise that a significant number of these connections are driven by those who want to make money and others who are wanting to harm or exploit. It is imperative that we help our children understand the nature of this world and provide the strategies to exist safely in this world. Many adults and children adhere to the false perception that there is privacy on the internet. This is dangerous, as the online world is the most public place in the world. Brett endorsed the use of products such as Family Zone, as they help chip away at this perception. Interestingly, in the statistics provided as part of the presentation, it was very clear that the least number of online issues occurred during school hours. The explanation given was that the students are aware of, and indeed are protected by, filtering software used on their laptops when on school sites.

Using the analogy of an iceberg, Brett outlined information about the Surface Web, the Deep Web and the Dark Web. He warned parents about children accessing the TOR browser and urged them to check if they have this installed on any devices. It is software such as this that the Family Zone product detects.

Brett discussed the dangers of sexting and challenged the belief that “everyone does it”. Acceptance of claims such as this normalises the practice and Brett encouraged parents to speak openly to their children about this. Apart from this being a criminal offence to possess, produce and distribute such images, it can and has changed the lives of many people. As we all know, as soon as something has been sent, the sender loses all control over what subsequently happens with that information. Brett stated that 189 teenagers had been arrested in Queensland last year for activities involving sexting. Sexting has also contributed to serious bullying and mental health issues. Brett encouraged parents to speak to their children about this and even encouraged them to apply the ‘Grandma test’ (how would you feel if your grandma was to see this).

Brett concluded with his Five Principles for parents. These are outlined in more detail on his website and are available via his free eBook.

  1. Set clear rules and boundaries (What, When, Where, Who, Language, Problems)
  2. Parents make the final decisions. (You do not enter negotiations when addressing other safety strategies like wearing a seatbelt in a car.)
  3. Use management controls. (Products like Family Zone where suggested settings have already been put in place.)
  4. Stay up to date with your children’s usage. (Google search, talk to your children, talk to other adults, talk to teachers)
  5. Communication with your kids – this is the key to everything.

Brett closed his presentation by urging us all to follow this simple rule: ALL internet devices come out of the bedroom when children should be sleeping. He suggests that this one simple act can reduce risks of undesirable online behaviours, including bullying, by 50%.

I encourage all families to visit the links mentioned and to take the time to discuss the information presented with your children.

Gary O'Brien
Deputy Principal