Rainbow Beach Police Beat: On board with online safety

Senior Constable Michael Brantz

The internet is a powerful tool that can bring the whole world to your phone, tablet, TV or computer.

Unfortunately, this means not only the best, but also the worst of what’s out there. It can expose children to unwelcome material, people or attention.

This was evidenced recently following the tragic death of Northern Territory teenager, Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett after relentless cyberbullying led her to take her own life on January 3.

Cyberbullying is the use of technologies by an individual or a group of people to deliberately and repeatedly upset someone else. It can occur in many ways, including abusive texts and emails, hurtful messages, images or videos, imitating, humiliating or excluding others online or nasty online gossip and chat.

Right now, there are many young people being cyberbullied and it can often be difficult for parents or teachers to detect.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner list some of the warning signs on their website. These include:

  • being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone
  • changes in personality, becoming more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry
  • appearing more lonely or distressed
  • unexpected changes in friendship groups
  • a decline in school work
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • avoidance of school or clubs
  • a decline in physical health
  • becoming secretive about online activities and mobile phone use.

The good news is that with some practical internet safety precautions you can help your children maximise the benefits of being online while minimising the risks.

There is a wealth of useful information out there about safe internet use, and there’s even a special day to encourage better online behaviour.

Celebrated globally every year, ‘Safer Internet Day’ takes place on Tuesday February 6, and this day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community.

This year’s theme is ‘Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you’.

In Australia, the ‘Safer Internet Day’ initiative is being driven by the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner. You may remember this name from an article I wrote last year about their website – www.esafety.gov.au – which provides a heap of useful resources for parents and carers.

In particular, the ‘iParent’ section provides guidance on a huge range of online issues such as cyberbullying, internet safety, parental controls, online risks and balancing screen time.

If you have any concerns, I urge you to check out the website, it’s easy to navigate and has up-to-date research and statistics.