New early childhood online safety education initiative launched

A new early childhood online safety education initiative has been launched today (Monday, 18 May) that aims to help parents, carers and educators teach infants, toddlers and pre-school children basic technology and online safety concepts.

Playing IT Safe, developed as a partnership between the Australian Federal Police, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation and the eSafety Commissioner hosts play-based activities, games and resources for parents, carers and educators to use when introducing technology and online safety to young children.

Research from the eSafety Commissioner shows that 81 per cent of parents with pre-schoolers said their children were already using the internet.

This creates potential challenges including exposure to inappropriate content, creating self-generated child sexual exploitation material or unwanted contact through interactive apps or games.

Playing IT Safe provides an introduction to technology and online safety, through preventative messaging, a series of play-based digital and offline activities that young children can undertake in an early learning setting with educators, and at home with parents and carers.

The site encourages parents and carers to engage with children in fun, interactive and age- appropriate ways to better help them understand technology, as well as create and develop a foundation for good online safety skills that will stay with them as they grow.

Educators will be able to access information and resources developed by early childhood education and online safety experts.

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO Lesley Podesta said keeping children safe online is at the core of its work.

“We know children are now online before they can read,” Ms Podesta said.

“Our children need to explore and learn safely, and these resources will help them play online in ways that will give them the skills they need to be safe and smart.”

AFP Assistant Commissioner ACCCE and Child Protection Lesa Gale said the initiative was one avenue the AFP was working to help protect children online.

“Police agencies across the country work diligently to identify and prosecute offenders but we carry that same drive and commitment to helping educate children and their parents and carers about the challenges they can face online,” Assistant Commissioner Gale said.

“People are increasingly spending time online and it only follows that young children will as well. Working collaboratively with our partners means that we can deliver holistic advice and resources directly to the people who need it the most.”

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said with so many pre-school aged children now using internet-enabled devices, it is never too early to start talking to them about online safety.

“Early engagement is critical to laying the fundamental building blocks for safer online practices throughout a child’s online journey – instead of just “talking to them” – really this is about engaging with young children and guiding them now, and for the future.”

In 2018, the AFP received funding under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002 to work with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation to develop an online safety resource aimed at pre-school aged children, teaching them to use networked technology in safe and appropriate ways and to support parents, carers and educators to develop approaches and systems that keep children safe online.

The eSafety Commissioner has provided additional funding to this project, resulting in the creation of the younger years’ activities for infants and toddlers taking a holistic and play-based approach to early childhood online safety education.