From Mr McMullen

In my newsletter article this week I want to relay some of the advice provided by Kirra Pendergast, CEO of the ‘Safe on Social’ group, in response to the recent circulation of distressing video content uploaded to social media platforms, commonly used by school aged students.

While this one specific video brought a lot of attention to the risks of unmonitored social media access, it is important that our practices in guiding our children in the wise use of technology is maintained in a consistent manner.

“In talks to primary school age students, I (Kirra) always say, “If you ever see anything yucky online that makes you feel scared, upset or even if it makes you feel a bit weird in the tummy, talk to Mum, Dad or another trusted adult.”

With high school students, I always mention similar, but obviously in language to suit the audience. I also let them know if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents that they can speak with one of the school welfare team, a teacher, another trusted adult, or call Kids Helpline.

Please make sure your children know to speak up.

Tips for Parents:

1. Be as involved in your child’s online life as you are their offline life. To them, it is just “life” – it is so blurred now, there is no definition in the eyes of a young person.

2. Think about the age recommendations; it is not illegal for a child to use social media under the age of 13yrs with their parents’ permission but think about what they are being exposed to. When we sign up to use apps, there are extensive terms and conditions of use. By ticking that box accepting them, you are signing a document that puts all the onus back on the user. You are signing up to be a data generating commodity, handing over personal information that can be sold and shared at the app’s discretion. When you click “I agree” to most terms and conditions on social media platforms – you give it up by legal contract. And you probably didn’t even read them. Most adults don’t, let alone a child.

Carnegie Mellon researchers estimated that for an average individual to read all the terms and conditions we should – it would take 76 days. So, you could legitimately argue the impossibility of this. Instagram’s Terms and Conditions are over 5000 words long. Facebook sits at around 15,000. TikTok has a couple of pages; Google’s terms and conditions are shorter than Facebook.

The practice of tech companies is to either: bombard you with so much detail, it is incredibly unrealistic to expect anyone (especially a child) to read through them all, or to create brief terms and conditions that are deceptively simple, and in effect, sign away all rights to your content, and personal information by using vague legal speak.

3. Use parental controls where possible to minimise exposure to harmful and distressing content.

4. Engage with them about their favourite social media app and get them to teach you about it so you can at least know the basics. Get them to show you how to block and report so you can be sure they know how to.

5. Put healthy boundaries in place. Do not take it off them if they speak up about something that has happened online because you are scared. This is the quickest way to drive all the conversations that you want to be having underground. Instead, if you have a healthy boundary like all devices are banned from the bathroom or bedroom. So then if they are caught with their device in either place, you ban them for a week. This way, they will learn that it is safe to speak up about what is going on online without punishment unless they break the rules about device use. Limit use to the family room with younger kids so that you can monitor them.

6. Be a good role model. Keep your screen time in check. There is no use banning the phones from bedrooms if you go to bed with yours each night, for example.”

As we approach the final week of this term, I would like to commend our Year 12 students on the consistent approach they have made through a most difficult year. Currently, we are developing COVID safe plans for the Term 4 to provide for the HSC examination period and their Graduation and Formal in November. Next week we will be running a number of activities with the Year 12 students to mark the end of their schooling. It is always a mixture of feelings as we say farewell to our Year 12 cohort. Sadness at saying goodbye, celebrating in the completion of this big stage of life and relief that a hard year of work is nearing its end. We are most proud of our graduating students and our staff continue to remember them in prayer.

In His service,
Keith McMullen