I recall in the early 2000s attending a lecture where the esteemed Professor declared that it would not be long before computers would be small enough to be carried around on our phones. As an owner of a flip-top Nokia, this left me in awe at the possibility. At the time my eldest daughter did not own any electronic device, other than a DS machine. Her favourite games were Mario Cart 7, Legend of Zelda and Club Penguin!

Fast forward 10 years to the birth of my youngest daughter and the world was consumed by mobile phones, iPads, the internet, smart devices and social media. My youngest daughter was born as a digital native.

Dr Emma Burgess

Today technology has become an integral part of our daughter’s lives. It influences how our girls learn, share, interact and live.

There are many wonderful things about technology, as we’ve witnessed this year. We are grateful for the capacity to use technology to support our learning via distance and to offer virtual tours and showcase experiences to our community. Technology has supported our ability to stay connected during COVID-19 and has sustained our girls’ continued sense of belonging.

Despite many wonderful aspects of our digital world, there are some dangers and risks involved. Children require our support to understand what cyberspace is, what happens there, how to identify and deal with problems, and how to stay safe.

Young people often view technology as a life-line to their peers, but at the same time, experts such as Susan McLean caution that it can expose them to:

  • Inappropriate content

  • Cyberbullying

  • Sexting

  • Online grooming and

  • Identity theft.

Thoughts regarding cyberspace

It is important to start early with good online habits, teaching good cyber-safety rules such as encouraging your daughter to not reveal her full name, address, telephone number, banking details to anyone online.

Susan McClean further offers some considerations when speaking with your daughter about technology:

  • Consider respect and responsibility: ask yourself, is what I’m about to do online respectful of myself and/or someone else and is it responsible use of technology?

  • Cyberspace is a public space: regardless of where you go, everything you do online is in the public domain and you will always leave a digital footprint.

  • Emphasise that, once photos, videos and audio files are posted or displayed online, she cannot control its use.

Please be encouraged to:

  • Engage in your child’s online activities – ask what apps, sites and games they’re using and make sure they’re age-appropriate.

  • Use parental controls and apps such as Linewize (previously Family Zone) on devices to help limit what your child is exposed to.

  • Let your daughter know she can come to you about anything upsetting she sees online.

  • Monitor your daughter if she is more vulnerable and at-risk, and check in with her about her interactions on and offline.

Earlier this week, a graphic video was being shared on TikTok and other social media platforms, causing great concern for parents and teachers and deep distress for especially children who happened upon it in their media stream. We understand that this content has since been removed.

Because imagery like this can be a trigger for some individuals and highlighting it can further its reach we took the advice of the eSafety Commissioner and Headspace, who cautioned discretion, encouraging schools to avoid raising the specifics of the issue with students who may not have heard or been exposed to the video in order to not further the reach of the video.

We do want to highlight the following, however, should your daughter come upon distressing content:

  • “Young people may feel scared, embarrassed, or confused about having seen inappropriate content, so it is important to communicate in an open and supportive manner. They may also fear that adults may not be able to help them or fear reprisals like ‘device denial’ if they do share harmful content they have been exposed to online,” so assure your daughter that she will not be penalised when sharing such an experience.

  • “Young people respond differently to highly distressing events. While some will seek immediate assistance from a trusted adult, others will be less inclined to do so. It is important for young people to know that there is no “right” way to respond to upsetting or disturbing online events, but that reporting it is a way to help protect others.

  • Young people also need to know that they are not alone, and help is available from trusted adults, friends and professional support services.

  • Help them report and block upsetting content they see on social media sites or apps: www.esafety.gov.au/report/illegal-harmful-content.

If you have any concerns regarding your daughter, please contact her Year Coordinator or our Junior School or Senior School Counsellors respectively.

Anyone who may be at risk or experiencing emotional distress is encouraged to contact one of the following services:

  • If a life is in danger, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.

  • Kids Helpline. 1800 55 1800. Phone support is there all day, every day. Online support is open from 8am-midnight every day (AEST).

  • Suicide Callback Service. 1300 659 467. Phone support all day, every day, and follow-up calls.

  • eHeadspace. 1800 650 890. Open 9am-1am daily (AEST).

  • Lifeline. 13 11 14. Phone support all day, every day. Online support 7pm-4am daily (AEST).​​​​​​​

  • Beyondblue. 1300 22 4636. Phone support all day, every day. Online support 3pm-midnight every day.