It’s an ongoing issue that always seems to rear its ugly head in the news — innocent kids being bullied and targeted by predators online.

Luckily for me, my Millie Valentine isn’t at the age where she’s locking herself in her bedroom and spending her life trawling through the internet, but I wonder if things will be better or worse once she takes the leap into the world of technology?

It’s become so concerning that Life Education’s Mobile Learning Centre now teaches bCyberwise and It’s Your Call online safety modules. So far they have reached 150,000 school children across Australia. A bit different to the lessons I learnt from mascot Healthy Harold all those years ago in the caravan that rolled into my rural school about the types of food I should be putting in my body. 

St Stephen’s College on the Gold Coast has taken it a step further and is at the forefront of developments in cyber safety. They’ve started lessons aimed at teaching students how to be safe online at home, because they want to equip their students with the knowledge required to become safe and respectful digital citizens.

It sounds like pretty serious stuff and a far cry from what I learnt at that age at school — perfecting a Tuna Bake I could make at home in Home Economics was as dangerous as it got.

The program extends to parents and one of the  tips the course recommends for protecting your young ones from content that’s sexual, violent or even illegal, is to talk to them. Tell your kids there’s nothing wrong with being honest if they stumble across something they shouldn’t. I’m sure we’ve all had a moment where some innocent googling led us to something we really didn’t expect. ‘I’ve got a rash’, for example… did that last week and let’s say it was pretty frightening. (My heat rash was fixed with a quick GP visit and an antihistamine tablet, just in case you were concerned.)

Chatting about it on my radio show, real parents called in with what they are doing online to protect and teach their kids.

The best tips for keeping your kids safe online

  • Have a family account. Some kids may hate that idea, but it will help keep them honest and safe.
  • Make passwords something you share and know their log on name. That way you can log onto their account anytime to check if they are OK and looking at the right things.
  • Keep the computer in your family room and keep an eye on the content they’re sharing. Just like you would ask them, ‘how was school today’, ask them ‘what have they learnt, looked at, or seen online today’.

As someone who has come across their fair share of nasties online in the past, I’d urge you to also teach your kids about being polite on line. That person auditioning on a television talent show is a real person with feelings and although they might not think a comment they posted would reach them, it might, and might really hurt them. I’ve seen it first hand.

The simple message is this: Always post positivity.