Net safety push for tod­dlers

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - CLARE MASTERS

A NEW na­tional cam­paign will use Play School to teach tod­dlers how to avoid on­line preda­tors and use the in­ter­net safely as au­thor­i­ties ad­mit par­ents and teach­ers are strug­gling to man­age kids’ on­line habits.

Star­ring char­ac­ters in­clud­ing Big Ted and Jemima, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Early Years cam­paign en­cour­ages chil­dren to let a grown-up know if they see some­thing scary.

Aus­tralia’s eSafety Com­mis­sioner Julie In­man Grant said un­der­stand­ing the on­line world had to start early so that by the time chil­dren are “eight or nine they know how to recog­nise a creep”.

“It has to start in the home, par­ents can’t leave this to pri­mary school,” Ms Grant said.

BIG Ted, Jemima and the whole gang from Play School will take on a new star­ring role help­ing to teach kids how to avoid on­line preda­tors and use the in­ter­net safely in a new ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment safety watch­dog. It comes as ex­perts say the rec­om­men­da­tion of no screen time for chil­dren aged un­der two isn’t work­ing any­more and par­ents need more help teach­ing young­sters how to nav­i­gate tech­nol­ogy. The Early Years cam­paign be­gins this week with a Fam­ily Tech Agree­ment, which can be down­loaded to dig­i­tal de­vices from the eSafety Com­mis­sioner’s web­site. Rules in the Fam­ily Tech Agree­ment in­clude ask­ing be­fore us­ing a de­vice or play­ing a new game on­line and us­ing de­vices in shared spa­ces of the home. Us­ing Play School char­ac­ters, it en­cour­ages chil­dren to use kind words and let a grown-up know if they see some­thing scary. More re­sources are set to roll out this year aimed at chil­dren un­der five, their fam­i­lies and early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors, in­clud­ing pro­fes­sional learn­ing mo­d­ules for child­care cen­tres.

Aus­tralia’s eSafety Com­mis­sioner Julie In­man Grant said un­der­stand­ing the on­line world had to start early.

“It has to start in the home, par­ents can’t leave this to pri­mary school,” Ms Grant said.

“On­line en­tice­ment and groom­ing is hap­pen­ing on these plat­forms that pro­vide chat func­tions.

“We need kids to use good judg­ment and make good choices and you can start these safe­guard­ing and pro­tec­tive be­hav­iours early and by the time they are eight or nine they know how to recog­nise a creep.”

Re­search by eSafety found 81 per cent of par­ents with preschool­ers al­lowed their chil­dren to use the in­ter­net and of those, 94 per cent were on­line by the age of four.

Close to 40 per cent of Aus­tralian par­ents think their preschoole­r spends too much time on­line.

Early Child­hood Aus­tralia worked on the cam­paign along­side the ABC.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Dr Kate High­field said it was clear par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors were all strug­gling to nav­i­gate tech space for kids.

“The old ar­gu­ment of screen time is no longer work­ing,” she said. “We need to look closely at how that time is spent. For ex­am­ple half-an-hour of ap­pro­pri­ate screen time when you are co-view­ing with your 18 month might be ben­e­fi­cial.”

Dr High­field said Aus­tralia was lead­ing in this space, recog­nis­ing that re­search was needed so par­ents can lean on their early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors for sup­port in terms of what tech can be ben­e­fi­cial for un­der-fives.

Mother-of-two Sara Keli, from Win­ston Hills in Syd­ney’s north­west, wel­comed the move and said she would use the con­tract with her two young daugh­ters, Olivia and Josephine.

Pic­ture: David Swift.

Sara Keli, with daugh­ters Olivia, 6, and Josephine, 3, sup­ports the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s new Early Years cam­paign.

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