Keeping our children safe in the modern world

This week is National Child Protection Week. As the General Manager of children’s harm prevention charity ChildSafe, I want to talk to you about a really important topic of keeping our children safe in the modern world.

When I first became a parent I was so nervous, typically because I think of myself as a big kid sometimes. I’m always trying to make people laugh and sometimes do crazy stuff to get attention and generally just muck around.

So when I was thrust into this important position as a dad I was really unprepared. Not because our children weren’t planned, just that I really didn’t know what to expect.

I remember the first time I taught my son how to ride a bike. It was in our driveway and I did the safety check:

Bike in good working order – CHECK!
Helmet on – CHECK!
Nothing on the driveway he can run into – CHECK!
Weather is good – CHECK!

OK. I was ready to go and so was he.

I set him up on the top of the driveway, gave him an inspiring pre-game speech, then gave him a little push and off he went. You should have seen him, he was riding really well and I was screaming with excitement but…

…there was one thing I hadn’t taught him and that was how to STOP.

As he rode so well without a care in the world my anxiety began to rise and just like a final shot going through the hoop in slow motion to win the game in a movie, I could see what was about to happen…as he rode straight into a rose bush. Ouch!

I had started running after him when I could see what was about to occur, but I did not reach him in time.

Needless to say, I am proud of his resilience and determination and he did get back on the bike a few days later and to this day he rides well.

I wonder if you can relate to a moment like that? Even if you are not a parent have you ever set up something for children but haven’t taken into consideration all of the risks? Maybe a footy practice or new program?

Upon reflecting on this moment I thought to myself, I wonder if I could have stopped this from happening. I wonder what more I could have done to keep him safe? If he was learning to ride today what would I do differently?

The truth is as parents, coaches, carers and mentors we have a job to do in keeping children and young people safe from not only the physical world but also the online modern world. The online world can be really great with funny cat videos and interesting facts to look up, but it can also be unsafe if we don’t teach and guide children to navigate it well. Children’s brains are not fully developed and they need guidance of what to do and what not to do.

Important things to remember in keeping our children safe

So, in light of this here are a couple of important things to remember, to help keep our kids safe:

When it comes to social media and other apps remember that what we say and do online stays there forever. We might delete it, but the internet doesn’t. And employers are now scrolling social media feeds before choosing applicants. This also means how we communicate to others online through posts stays there forever too, including photos. One big drunken night can cause a lot of pain not just in the morning. One bullying post could cause a lifetime of pain.

The best way to consider what you post online is to ask yourself:

Will what I post today have big consequences tomorrow?
Is what I am posting degrading to anyone else, or myself?
Is what I am posting kind?

Parents, please don’t allow your children to be on their devices in their rooms. This sounds obvious but it isn’t for many. The truth is, there are people online that do want to hurt children, and in this time of isolation (according to the latest research from the e-safety commissioner reports of abuse) sexual abuse and cyberbullying have increased considerably.

Supporting our children involves removing as much of the danger as we can so they stay safe and taking devices out of their rooms is crucial in doing this. If for some reason this can’t happen, make sure the door is left open so you can check on things.

Know what your children are doing online. What apps they are using, who they are talking to online and what games they are playing. Guiding children is difficult at times, especially in our modern world, but what makes it even more difficult is the inability to keep children safe because we are in the dark about what they are doing.

So:

Play Xbox with them. It might sound lame, but using this time well can result in the best fun. My son now beats me at 2k20 and he rubs it in all the time, however, I know what he is doing and who he is online with because I am involved. This goes for apps etc and social media. Don’t let any online conversations happen without them knowing that you know what is going on. This isn’t about checking up on them, it’s about keeping them safe.
Don’t let children under the age of 13 years have social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram). If they are 13 years or older make sure you have their passwords so you can check any time on what is being posted and who they are accepting as friends. Again, it’s about keeping them safe.

Coming back to my story, of what I would have done differently in teaching my son how to ride a bike so he didn’t crash into a rose bush. I would have taught him everything he needed to know to ride the bike, including how to stop to avoid danger. And I would have removed the danger.

As parents, carers, coaches and mentors it is our responsibility to teach children how to navigate the modern online world, and as long as we can we must remove any danger we know is there or could be there. This will help to keep our kids safe, so they can have the best opportunities to thrive in life.

 

 

Neil Milton
General Manager, ChildSafe

National Child Protection Week is 6-12 September 2020.
Our guest blog this week is from Neil Milton, General Manager of ChildSafe, a Partner Organisation with MOPS Australia. ChildSafe is a not-for-profit harm prevention charity working with organisations to prevent the harm and abuse of children. ChildSafe enables trusted environments for the children in an organisation’s care.
childsafe.org.au

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