Cyber safety: Kirsty Harvey, Nikytaa Campbell, Kayne Duncan and Kailee Challen with Susan McLean
Cyber safety: Kirsty Harvey, Nikytaa Campbell, Kayne Duncan and Kailee Challen with Susan McLean Allan Reinikka ROK200417acybersa

BIG READ: How CQ parents need to keep kids safe in online world

SUSAN McLean says when it comes to regional communities and cyber safety there is still a naivety surrounding the topic.

Because they are geographically isolated there's this perception problems of the big city won't, and don't, reach smaller towns.

Susan, who runs Cyber Safety Solutions, says in real world context that may very well be the case, but when you're online the whole world comes to you.

This is why understanding the complexities of technology use is so critical, especially in rural and regional areas.

Susan travels from school to school, educating and empowering children on how to keep themselves safe online.

Her latest stop was Rockhampton State High school where she touched on a variety of topics from digital reputations to online grooming.

"With the kids we talk about the landscape, so a few facts about technology, what it is, how it works, what to be aware of," Susan said.

"We talk about digital reputation and the fact that what you do online is how people are going to perceive you, there's no context. If they don't like the look of you, you might miss out on something and of course that's not fair but that's actually what happens so we look at how to manage digital reputation.

"We talk about cyber bullying and what it is, obviously prevention is best but we need to know how to deal with it if it happens.

"We certainly talk about the law because any technology misuse is a crime. Not only are these children being potentially hurtful to another person, they're actually committing a crime."

With regards to age appropriateness to have a phone and be on social media, Susan said it was important to follow the guidelines.

All sites will have their legal ages in the terms and conditions of use, which is never under 13 years of age.

"Now that is the minimum age to have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, to have a YouTube account or any Google account for that matter other than a school-issued Gmail," she said.

"So under 13 is a no. Children are not mature enough to manage the interactions that are occurring online and we want to keep kids safe for longer.

"Then from 13, when they're legally allowed to be there, that is when they can set up these accounts."

Susan said following guidelines when it came to ages was critical as grooming rates rise.

"The grooming of children is a crime of opportunity, so through education we need to remove that opportunity so children do not engage with people they don't know, especially fake celebrity accounts which we've seen of late," she said.

"That's a concern, how was it that so many young people actually believed they were talking to Justin Bieber, how did they not think it was strange, how did they not know about the verification tick."

Susan says cyber safety needs a holistic approach because nothing works in isolation, so if you share key messages and strategies with children, that will help them no matter what they're doing in life.

"It was interesting because a lot of children didn't know what Facebook offers to make their platform safer," she said.

"It's like a bike helmet, if it's not on your head when you fall off, it doesn't protect you. So if you're not using the security settings they're not helping you."

The minute you give your child a smart phone they have access to the world and Susan says you have to start to parent in a different way.

"Realistically no child in primary school needs a smart phone, none, zero, zilch, never ever," she said.

"They'll want one, want and need are two very different words but certainly by high school they're travelling on the bus often, they're going out with friends so it's a handy tool.

"The phones have inbuilt parental controls, so turn them on and use them so that you are giving your child the best possible start. Don't be reactionary."

Susan said parents needed to talk early and often with their children, keeping the communication open.

"Every time there is a media report about technology, use it as a discussion starter."

"Never think, not my child."

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