28 June 2019
In the final weeks of this term I found myself a bit nostalgic. Reflecting on my own schooling journey, I am reminded that my formal education began in a school in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The classes had bare concrete floors, a wall-length blackboard complete with a wooden metre ruler, louvred windows and a rustic hardwood door. Life was simple. My cares included ‘Who would get to the swings first?’ ‘Did I have enough marbles left to play a game at lunch?’. My experience is a unique memory and one that is not the norm today. It may be an understatement to say, “we live in a fast-paced and changing world”. It seems that in almost all areas of life advancement in technology, access to information and social connectivity is seen as desirable and required. We are able to connect with family, friends and a broad range of content.
More and more of being ‘connected’ is changing how we communicate and how we socialise. Social media acts as digital community hubs. Here images and messages can be sent, shared, grouped, filtered, received and replied to. The immediacy that social media allows has meant it is now a preferred mode of conversation and connection - especially in young people. While connectivity is fast becoming a requirement for various areas of life, it is not without its pitfalls. Many Australian schools have reported behavioural and relational issues relating to student use of games, social media, texts and emails. Among the common issues are those relating to image-based abuse, cyberbullying and harassment. This aspect has become an increasing concern for parents, carers and schools.
Recently Avondale School was asked to attend a Police Forum hosted by the Belmont Police Station. The forum was an opportunity for the Administration of the schools in Lake Macquarie to receive a presentation from the office of the eSaftey Commissioner. The Government has expanded the capability of the eSafety Commissioner’s office and has passed legislation that has increased the effective reach of the eSaftey Commissioner. The office has greater power to restrict and control persons who use technology to impact Australians negatively. Social media providers have given eSaftey round the clock access to allow quick responses to cases, and cases are dealt with promptly. It is now possible to have the text or image removed and the offender’s account closed within 1-3 hours.
The eSaftey Commissioner’s presentation provided practical principles and steps that individuals, parents and caregivers can take to maintain and ensure their children are safe while connecting online using social media, games and text messages. The same information is available to everyone on the eSafety website https://www.esafety.gov.au While as a school, Avondale does not permit students’ access to social media on the school device during the school day, the School understands that students will have access to social media outside of school. We strongly recommend parents access the website of the eSaftey Commissioner and to begin the conversation about cybersafe behaviours and incident prevention with your child. The eSafety resources are quite accessible, informative and empowering.
It is exciting to think that the world our children will lead one day will be one that values connectedness, adaptation, innovation and creativity. In this season we are tasked to guide them through a change in the technological and social landscape. As a school we are focused to see that each Avondale School student will be equipped to move with confidence toward a future blessed with God-given hope and opportunity. We believe that by partnering with you in this aspect of learning we can see a strong return on our combined efforts. Be blessed in the week and across the weekend.
Assistant Head of Secondary