In July, our team launched the Best Practice Framework for Online Safety Education. This is Australia’s first-ever national framework for schools and teachers designed to help educators equip young people with the necessary skills to safely navigate the online world, writes eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.
It establishes a consistent national approach that supports education systems across Australia to deliver high quality programs, with clearly defined elements and effective practices.
Schools across the country now have access to this Framework that can be used to develop, assess or refine whole-school online safety education programs using evidence-based practices.
The Framework is designed to address the needs of every student from F-12 in age-appropriate ways, providing guidance in five key elements, outlined below
Within the Framework each element has associated ‘effective practices’ designed to guide educators when developing online safety education programs and policies.
The foundation of these elements and effective practices were developed out of a two-part process to research and identify ‘what works’ in online safety education, led by Professor Kerryann Walsh from the Queensland University of Technology.
Online safety education has often been inconsistent, both in content and delivery, this is why we designed and developed the Framework in consultation with child online safety education experts and educators across the country, to ensure that schools are equipped with practices that are evidence-based and can be tailored to meet the needs of their own communities.
What can these evidence-based approaches look like when designing online safety education programs?
- An approach needs to recognise the rights and responsibilities of students to participate safely online, and to empower them to have a voice when it comes to their online safety education. The framework encourages educators to work together with their students, understanding how they use technology to engage online and the challenges they face, and building this into a co-designed online safety program that is relevant and age appropriate.
- Online safety programs should be framed around the pillars of building resilience and managing risk. Programs should be strengths based and grounded in recognising the positive impact technology has in the everyday lives of students – for example, helping students understand the positive role social media can play to amplify messages about social issues in a community. Fear based messaging should be avoided.
To help them cope if things do go wrong, education should provide students with an opportunity to understand the different types of risk they can be exposed to online, and strategies that can help build resilience and prevent risks turning into harms. This means teaching children when and how to seek help – and how to help others if they can see they are struggling.
Teaching students about risk of harm and resilience needs to vary depending on the age and particular needs of students – it is not a one size fits all approach.
- For online safety education to work, it needs to be an effective school wide approach. It should aim to build the capacity of students, as well as every member of the school community.
That’s why the framework recommends that online safety lessons are structured so that each lesson builds on the previous ones, with clear goals and learning objectives. Educators can also bring parents and carers on the journey by sending relevant information home – the eSafety website has a wealth of information for this. Teachers should also be trained in teaching online safety, using training such as eSafety’s Teacher Professional Learning program.
- Online safety education should be integrated across the curriculum, teaching a range of skills from critical thinking, to help seeking and social and emotional learning. There should be specific lessons focused on online safety, as well as opportunities to build skills into lesson plans across learning areas– for example, teaching critical thinking should include examples of how this applies in an online context.
- Online safety can never be ‘set and forget’, but continuously improved through review and evaluation. This allows schools to ensure that approaches are working for the school, and programs keep up with emerging issues and evidence about what is working.
Many more examples and guidance can be found in the support materials we have released together with the Framework including our implementation guide.
The implementation guide also helps educators use the Framework and provides tangible connections to eSafety’s Toolkit for Schools and the Australian Curriculum, as well as the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
To download and implement these landmark resources visit esafety.gov.au/educators/best-practice-framework.