There are many risks facing children and families today, but none more piercing than the Internet and associated technologies. It is now cheap… accessible… and everywhere you go! And just like water and electricity, it has now become a commodity. Just like our water pipes, part of it is hidden… but not underground. It is in our offices, bedrooms, on buses, our TVs, and anywhere our phones and electronic devices go.

His Eminence Metropolitan Basilios holds dearly the support for young families across our archdiocese, in any way necessary, and as a matter of priority. As such, under His Eminence’s guidance and blessing, the St Emilia’s Young Mums Group hosted an information evening to raise awareness of the key risks that may comprise the sanctity of our families, through the use, or abuse of electronic devices connected to the Internet. There are real and common dangers that can injure a family for years and generations to come.

On Friday 22nd November 2019, we were very fortunate to have Mr. Greg Gebhart, a senior education trainer from the Australian Federal department of the eSafety Commissioner’s office, and is one of Australia’s leading online safety presenters with expertise in eSafety, digital technology, technology of the future, social media apps and policies.

Greg opened with a disclaimer– what we would go on to hear that night would most likely make us want to go home and cut our internet wires; however, that is not the answer. While Greg spent the rest of the evening highlighting the dangers on the internet, it is possible and necessary to foster a positive usage of the internet by educate ourselves and our children and guiding them to have safer online experiences.

Mr. Greg has covered the follow topic: Cyberbullying, Online Pornography, Online Gaming and how to help your child achieve a healthy balance in their online and offline activities, Unwanted Contact and Grooming.

If you or a loved one do encounter any of the above misuses of the internet, you can take action!

  • In the first instance, listen to your child. Stay calm and let them have some time to talk about it. Be sensitive to how they feel and reassure them that they are not in trouble.
  • Visit: immediately after to report any abuse or find a wealth of information on eSafety. The eSafety Commissioner’s Office can help you block offenders and take down inappropriate and abusive content.

The website also contains guides on amending the settings and controls of the top apps used by children, strategies for coaching children on their use of internet, how to encourage balance between the internet and mobile devices and offline activities.

Children’s nature is generally to do the right thing, they just make mistakes, especially with such dangers present online and in the technological realm. Have faith in your children, trust your instinct when it seems like something is wrong. You owe it to your child to investigate and help. As a parent, we have a new role in this day and age. It is as a technological coach. When speaking with our children about sensitive and possibly embarrassing issues, sit side-by-side to them, or open the discussion in the car, so they don’t have to maintain eye contact when discussing such things. Stay calm, encouraging, and positive, but remember to always act fast! Immediate action can help preserve your child’s reputation and wellbeing when reporting cases such as cyberbullying or image-based abuse.

Thank you, Greg, and all who attended on the night. It was really ‘Gucci’, and while we may have wanted to rush home and cut our internet wires so badly that night, we all walked away with some great practical strategies and tools that we can put in place to work at protecting ourselves, our children, and their future.