House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013

Private Members' Business


7:28 pm

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak this evening on the important private member's motion brought by the member for Forrest relating to cybersafety. Over the past seven years we have seen the emergence of the phenomenon of social networking. It is a progression in both technology and society that our culture is still grappling with. Technology has progressed too quickly for our laws and social customs to accommodate and much social interaction that occurs via these platforms continues to evolve in conjunction with social media. This technology has provided us with fantastic opportunities, both in terms of connecting with others socially and professionally as well as providing us with information. But as with any new technology, there will always be some challenges and drawback that need to be contended with. The challenge facing us is to do with safety online, particularly the safety of young people.

Last year the coalition established the Online Safety Working Group to investigate the extent of this challenge. The group spent many months meeting with parents, young people, internet service providers, social networking sites and other stakeholders to gain an accurate understanding of what the challenges for cybersafety are and how they may be overcome. Through these meetings, the coalition identified that a staggering 90 per cent of young people are utilising social networking sites, mostly without parental supervision and without an understanding of the risks involved. It was clear that public awareness of the nature of social media itself was low and the inherent dangers of social media were not being inoculated against for the protection of young people. It also became clear from the Online Safety Working Group's work that a coordinated community response would be the key to fuelling a better public awareness of the dangers involved for young people in the online environment. Sadly, instances of 'grooming' and other dangerous behaviours by online predators are becoming more and more frequent. Despite this frequency, young people remain generally oblivious to recognising threats and reporting them to either parents and carers or to teachers.

To make this matter more serious, many parents have a hands-off approach to supervision of their children on social media, which is brought about by a lack of information. Many parents report even being unaware of how many devices their children are actually connected to social media through. These days internet access is not confined to the PC. Mobile phones, iPods, iPads and gaming devices, to name but a few, are all devices that are used to connect to the internet and engage with social media. The number of social networking sites is proliferating exponentially. It is almost impossible for parents, carers and teachers to keep up with that. But, if parents are not aware of their children's engagement, they cannot educate them and protect them from threats online. This is why late last year the coalition released a discussion paper about how we can protect our young people while they are online. The coalition recommended first that there be better coordination between all authorities, particularly with companies providing products and services to young people. Aiding in this, the coalition has also proposed that a single point of contact exist to direct inquiries and complaints to relating to online safety. This single point of contact would effectively act as a children's e-safety commissioner.

Second, the coalition has proposed that methods and arrangements be developed and administered by an independent regulatory body to enable the more rapid removal of dangerous or nefarious content on social media. While we currently operate under a co-regulated scheme that is subject to take-down notices by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, it is suggested that this process be expanded to include social networking companies. This would address problems in a very timely way, particularly to do with cyberbullying behaviour, which can be paralysing for those young people who bear the brunt of this behaviour.

Third, the coalition is proposing to create national safety standard certification for online safety materials and to make certified materials readily available to parents and carers for education and support. Similar to recognisable certifications in other industries, this certification would be a highly recognisable icon that would be provided only to materials that meet guidelines.

It is important that parliamentarians and people who establish directions to ensure the safety of young people debate these measures, look for the solutions and work in concert with parents to ensure that 'grooming' and cyberbullying in subtle and, in some instances, cowardly ways do not affect those who innocently become engaged in a social media construct which brings much enjoyment but at the same time brings inherent risks. I thank the member for Forrest for bringing this motion forward.


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