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Online safety grant awarded to UC researchers

Elly Mackay

2 October 2020: Parents and children across Canberra are set to become more educated in the online safety space thanks to researchers from the School of Arts and Communication at the University of Canberra, who today received a $118,000 grant to establish the ‘Safe Online Together’ program.

The Online Safety Grants Program– led by the eSafety Commissioner – was created to develop innovative services, resources, and products that improve the online safety of Australian children, young people, and their communities.

“This project will make a valuable contribution to the Australian Government’s commitment to keeping children, young people, and their families safe online by helping to bridge generational gaps in digital literacy and promoting online safety conversations in the household,” said Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner.

Safe Online Together is being led by the University of Canberra’s Dr Catherine Page Jeffery from the News and Media Research Centre, in partnership with Community Services #1 and Capital Region Community Services.

“Collaborating with two local organisations – Community Services #1 and Capital Region Community Services – helps to fulfill the University’s mission as a civic university,” said Professor Kerry McCallum, Director, News and Media Research Centre.

“Working in close partnership with these two organisations will enable access to a range of young people in the community and to make this a truly grounded and impactful research project.”

The program will deliver a series of evidence-based, innovative workshops and online resources to provide families with the skills to balance risks and opportunities associated with digital technologies.

Dr Page Jeffery said it is important for parents, alongside their children, to be educated in online safety.

“Parents are tasked with protecting their children from online risks, while simultaneously maximising the various opportunities that digital media offer young people,” she said.

“My research indicates that parents find this difficult, or that attempts to manage their children’s device use can result in family conflict.”

The Safe Online Together pilot program will consist of family workshops, student presentations, online resources and materials for young people and their families, and a program evaluation to help shape future research in this area.

Dr Page Jeffery says these steps will help parents and children to appreciate each other’s concerns and perspectives.

“We want parents to appreciate the important role that digital media plays in the lives of young people,” she said.

“At the same time, we want young people to acknowledge their parents’ concerns about online risks, as well as their parents’ desire for balanced use of digital media.”

The project also aims to change the perception of young people as vulnerable risk takers in the online environment, and instead support them to share their knowledge about managing their online presence with younger peers and families.

The pilot program of Safe Online Together kicks off this month and runs through until 2022.

“This grant enables us to work with our community services partners to apply our research in a practical way to people within the community who will benefit from it,” Dr Page Jeffery said.

“It will also generate valuable insights into family media use which will inform future research into this challenging issue which affects so many Australian families.”