Monday, 3 June 2013
Private Members' Business
That this House:
(1) acknowledges that:
(a) cyber-bullying and inadequate cyber-safety poses a significant threat to the welfare and security of all Australians, especially young people; and
(b) this threat will increase with new technology and greater connectivity; and
(2) calls on the Government to enhance cyber-safety education in all Australian schools.
The reasons for my motion are extremely clear. When eight- to 10-year-olds tell me they say they are 42 years old to get onto Facebook and that they have hundreds of online friends that they do not know in person, I know we have a major problem. When a teenager in Perth is stalked using geotagging, I know we have a major problem. When teenagers Carly Ryan and Nona Belomesoff are lured to their deaths by someone they met online, I know we have a major problem. When a family has to leave a community because their daughter was bullied through the distribution of a sexually explicit online video, then I know we have a problem. When children do not know that everything they post online is there forever, I know we have a major problem, particularly when it comes to sexting messages, the sending of sexually explicit images or videos. With mounting numbers of young people committing suicide because of online bullying that can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I know we have a major problem.
My motion before the House is designed to help our young people to manage online risks they are facing every day. I want them to be much more aware and alert than they are now, for them to be confident, smart, safe and responsible online so that they can make the most of their online opportunities. We need a national coordinated response We all know the internet is a fantastic tool, providing amazing opportunities. We can learn in our own homes, achieve degrees and qualifications, shop from home, do our banking, license our vehicles, pay our rates and get most of our business advice. We communicate with our extended families. In fact, many of us are actually reliant on the internet.
Young people are particularly active on the net. It is their world. They are voracious users and rely on technology. It is—and will always be—part of their daily lives. According to Telstra, Australian kids aged between 10 and 17 are online for an average of two hours a day, amongst the highest internet usage rates in the world. In my experience, in many instances this is actually a conservative estimate of the time spent online. However, many young people are completely unaware of both the power of the internet and the risks it entails. For instance, picture yourself walking through an open door where almost anything goes. For our children that is exactly what the internet is—the open door—so we need to provide as much education as possible so that young people can make good decisions online to help protect themselves and their families. Surely this is the most important goal of cybersafety policy. And surely it is obvious that self-protection relies almost entirely on education.
Over the past three years, much of my time has been spent providing cybersafety and cyberbullying sessions for schools—from preschool through to year 12, at times with Australian Federal Police and state police officers. In my experience during this time, the majority of young people and their parents are not aware of online risks, particularly those on social media sites. This is backed up by research that shows that 61 per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds accept friend requests from people they do not know. By year 11, 17 per cent have sent sexting messages and at least seven per cent meet someone in person who they have only met online according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. Seven per cent have been victims of cyberstalking and at least 25 per cent of children have been cyberbullied.
From what young people have said to me, they often believe that in some way they are anonymous online: 'because no-one can see me, I am safe!' I have found that view most prevalent in the five- to eight-year-old group. Some also believe, because they think they are anonymous online, that they can send or post the nastiest or most disgusting messages at times! Young people are also not aware that material they post online can stay online forever because the digital footprint of internet access is indelible. It is there forever and it is a permanent digital footprint. They simply do not understand that the internet never forgets.
The impacts of sexting are permanent, the images are on the internet forever impacting on that individual's reputation and opportunities in life. Universities, award donors and employers search the social websites on the internet. In the US, research shows that 70 per cent of recruiters rejected candidates for jobs based on information found on social websites. Young people are also unaware that sexting may be considered a criminal offence. Filming and online sharing of sexual activities of people under the age of 18 can lead to young people being charged by police and ending up on the national sex offenders list.
All Australians need to be better educated about cybersafety and young people are a key part of this in helping to educate their peers and other generations of Australians. This includes their parents, their grandparents but very importantly their younger brothers and sisters who often put themselves and their families at risk with their online postings. I have heard this repeatedly in my school sessions.
Young people also need to be taught the legal risks and the potential liabilities of social networking sites; of photo sharing; the short- and long-term consequences of sexting; and how to use their instincts online to recognise and deal with cyberstalking, online grooming, cyberbullying, their exposure to illegal or inappropriate material including the risk of inappropriate social and health behaviours, of privacy and identity theft and online security. They need to be taught about the issues of defamation, privacy disclosure and confidentiality, legal and ethical issues, intellectual property rights and copyright infringement, criminal laws including harassment and offensive material, computer gaming addictions, accessing of risk-taking sites, and the risk of posting personal identifying material that includes names, addresses and birthdays. These are the issues young people tell me constantly they are exposed to and dealing with online on a daily basis. It is difficult for young people to know exactly what their risks and liabilities are, because there is a fragmentation of cybersafety across agencies and jurisdictions, which is why a national coordinated approach is essential.
There will be even more risk in the future. It changes constantly. That is why at a purely personal level I believe cybersafety should be a core part of the national curriculum. It needs to be taught as part of information technology and, in my view, the only way to achieve uniformity of curriculum quality is to put cybersafety into the national curriculum and, through education, empower these great young people not only to help each other but also to help their families.
Ongoing education of students is a necessity given the rapid and constant changes in technology in apps, and I think we need to keep parents up to date through annual parent information sessions. We need a national commitment to educating our young people. I have spent three years doing cybersafety presentations in schools and I have listened to our great young people. I have come to the conclusion that education is a critical starting point for managing online risk. I will continue my work with my colleagues and members of the community to better include cybersafety in the national curriculum.
While I am here I would like to thank every great young person—and there have been so many of them—who has attended my sessions. I want to thank them because they were honest with me. They gave me great information about exactly what they are dealing with online. I have every confidence that they are a major part of the answer to the online challenges confronting us all. I still have many cybersafety sessions booked for the weeks and months ahead, and I also want to thank the principals, teachers and parents for enabling and attending the sessions to date. I also really want to thank the Australian Federal Police and local state police officers who have come along with me. As I said in the initial sense, we very much need a national, proactive, coordinated approach to give children the education and coping skills to manage what they are doing online.