Susan McLean Teaching and Protecting Kids Online InterviewQuestion:
How can parents ensure their children are protected when playing online?Susan McLean
: They can't. Nothing is 100% safe online. What parents need to do is equip themselves with the knowledge about what the game is and the reality that regardless of what a site says no one can protect your child 100%.Question:
What should parents be teaching their children in regards to being safe online?Susan McLean
: Parents need to understand that on Club Penguin and other games sites anyone can be that other penguin. Do not think that your child is necessarily talking to someone from their school, clearly they might be but they may not be as well. Sit with your children and watch them play and make sure you are absolutely doing the right thing. Make sure your children know they can come to you if something is not right and that your children know to never give out any information to anyone online regardless of who they say they are.
It is about raising parents awareness that just because it is a cute penguin or an online game that is marketed to children it doesn't mean that just children are going to play it and that kids can be mean. I have seen horrible cases of cyber bullying, online. It is about understanding it; it's not saying "no you can't play it" but understand what it is they can play and accepting that just as in the real world there are dangers and problems online that we need to talk about, monitor and guide. A statement such as "I don't worry when my child is playing on Club Penguin" is delusional and poor parenting. Question:
How can parents approach the topic of stranger danger online, without scaring them?Susan McLean
: I take classes in primary schools from prep right through to year 12 and I talk to the younger children about sharing information and I talk about rules, we have rules at school and rules online. Parents should sit down and write a set of rules that sit next to the computer that continually reinforces the children to what they should and shouldn't be doing and what to do if they have a problem. It is important to write the rules in a way that is age appropriate, the way you write it for a grade 6 is different to a prep child and you continually reinforce it.
We talk to children about dangers in the real world; we don't talk to strangers in the real world so we don't do it online, either. The rules are an extension of what we do in the real world. Of course we need to make sure children understand that if they don't know the person and have never met them then you have to be particularly careful of them.
You can use scenarios. A common situation is when someone asks 'Did you say your name was Sally?' and of course the young child will say 'Oh no, no, my name is Mary' and that is how they get information. It can go as far as 'Oh, that's right you go to St Francis' and the young child responds 'Oh no, no, I go to St Peters'. Young children can give out information without realising what they are doing. Use this a scenario because most people think that creepy people will ask 'What is your name?' and of course if a children is asked that they may not answer because it is a little bit creepy but if someone says 'Did you say your name was Sally?' it is exactly the same thing, but they don't realise it. Question:
What precautions can teenagers make to ensure they are being safe, whilst onlineSusan McLean
: The important thing for parents to understand with Facebook and other social media sites is that the legal age is 13 - parents must understand that and they must not support their children to setup Facebook profiles and do the wrong thing online because it is a whole new ball game when you're out there in social media websites. Pedophiles do not hang out on the street corner because kids aren't there they're on Facebook. Again having very stringent rules about how it is used, time frames (30 minutes a night) and continually going through and checking all of your children's friends to make sure that they don't add people they don't know. It is vital that you know your children's passwords and that is absolutely not negotiable and being a friend of theirs on Facebook is also absolutely not negotiable. Parents need to be aware that being a friend only allows you to see what is on you child's Facebook wall not what could be going on in messages or via chat. Many parents will not go into their child's cyber life, but they need too, this is parenting in the 21st century.
Take every step possible:
Do not share private information
Do not chat to anybody you don't know
Do not agree to meet people you have never met before and
Do not plaster all your name, address, phone number, email address, school, hobbies and teams over the internet.
Teenagers can learn how to protect themselves; it is about learning what information your friends can share about you and learning how to untag photographs before they go public. There are a lot of things you can do but many people don't know about them. Question:
Often parents are not sure how to approach teenagers, what would be your suggested method?Susan McLean
: Starting to talk to them, not beginning in a detrimental negative way because if you start every conversation with a negative your teenager will just shut off. Open an honest conversation because you sit down and talk to your kids about going out in the real world, who they go with, where they are going and what time they have to be home - you have to do the same thing online, it is no different.
There is nothing private on the internet, if your child says "go away, it's private" you root yourself to the spot and you do not move because that is the perfect opportunity to have a conversation about the fact that it is not private because nothing is private online. The stuff kids post everyday is going to be there in 30 years time; what is a prospective employee going to see about them or what is the principal going to see before their school captain interview. A digital reputation is extremely important and you only get one opportunity to get it right.
I had a mother contact me, this week, because her daughter had found photographs of her on Google and wanted to know how to get rid of them. You can't! You really have to understand what technology is and it is about parenting in the 21st century, you cannot put your head in the sand and say 'it's all too hard' or 'I don't understand it'. Question:
Can you talk about your seminars and how they help parents, students and teachers?Susan McLean
: I do seminars for a range of organisations: primary schools, secondary schools, parents and teachers. Today I am doing a seminar with secondary school students and then tonight I am running a parents seminar. Yesterday I did a secondary school and spoke with the Victorian female Cricket Team; I do a lot of work with elite sporting teams and conferences with doctors in regards to what to look for when children have been cyber bullied. Last night for example I was on the Channel 7 News and the 7pm Project, I regularly am spoken to by media for comment on cyber issues. Question:
Do you have a website parents and children can access?Susan McLean
Interview by Brooke Hunter