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Fight against e-bullying needs to start early

Early Childhood Australia (ECA), in its submission to the Federal Government’s Enhancing online safety for children public inquiry, has called for education on online safety to begin in the early years.

The submission argues that promoting positive behaviour online should begin once children start engaging with technology, which is increasing in the early years from birth to eight.

“On a daily basis, educators are teaching children about how to interact with others, and this could be extended to basic online engagement” said ECA CEO Samantha Page.

“Technology and non-physical interactions online will play a critical role in the future lives of these children, and parents and educators need to be equipped to develop the skills children need to engage with 21st century technology.”

“Approaches to building children’s skills in technology use must also be coupled with the development of children’s socio-emotional skills. A greater focus on socio-emotional skills like resilience supports children to better manage relationships with their peers and resolve conflicts which may include future incidents of cyber-bullying.”

“Children’s engagement with social media often begins earlier than expected without the knowledge or guidance of parents, and this early behaviour can be strongly influenced by their peers and older siblings. The nature of mobile internet devices in particular makes it difficult for parents to monitor their children’s online engagement.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of children from five to eight years old visiting or using social networking sites has increased by 11.2 per cent from 2009–2012, with the use of chat rooms, forums or instant messaging increasing by 17.4 per cent.

“We understand that the prevalence of cyberbullying is not significant until after 8 years of age. However, technology is now being used by very young children, including the use of online apps, tablets, phones and computers,” said Ms Page.

“This means that children’s approach to technology and the internet is being established early and this exposure can shape future behaviour online.”

Click here to download ECA’s Submission on Enhancing Online Safety for Children Public Inquiry.

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