In my 10th year of primary school teaching I set out to research, develop and write a cyber safety incursion for Grades 3-6. On February 6th 2019 I premiered my 90 minute, high energy, interactive incursion, 'Thrive Online', to a wide-eyed group of students in Surrey Hills, Victoria.
Throughout the year and after each session, students completed a ten question online quiz to not only reinforce the key messages but provide valuable feedback for me. One question I was particularly interested in was: 'Which part of the incursion did you find most useful and helpful?'. We cover a lot of content about being smart, alert, strong, kind and brave online but the most common student response to this question really surprised me....
"The part when I learnt to use Kids Helpline"
It didn't matter what school it was or whether they were Grade 3,4,5 or 6, the biggest takeaway for many students from a whole 90 minutes was that they now know of a place to go for support. Here is just a selection of responses from students (verbatim):
I really like the idea of the Kids Help Line
To know that the kids helpline is available if I need to talk to someone about an incident at school.
I found it helpful when he told us about kids help line and because he told us that I know what to do If I am in a situation like that
I've heard of the kids helpline but I've never really seen it so it was reassuring to see what the website looked like.
The fact that the Kids Helpline is not just a phone call it is a whole lot of useful information you can use to help a victim/yourself feel better and more safe.
I found the part where we learn about the kids helpline the most helpful.
when i found out that there is a kids help line to go to if i need help.
I can look to Kids HelpLine if I need help with a situation that I don't know how to deal with.
The kidshelpline website because i feel it will really help me in further incidents
I liked that we were showed the Kids Helpline website so we know we have somewhere to go if we need help.
Using kids helpline of you don't feel comfortable telling anyone
The part where we looked at the kids website that will help you when you are sad.
Knowing that there is something called kids helpline because it helped me feel safe :)
In addition to the student responses on the feedback form, there have been a number of interactions with students immediately after the session that have really stuck with me. Each one has followed a similar pattern. As the students are leaving, a single student will linger to ask me a question in private (out of earshot of other students), "Marty, you know that Kids Helpline site you mentioned today...can I go on there for anything? And do I have to get my parents permission to visit or can I do it without them knowing?" or "Marty, what was the name of that site to get help for kids?" (they will then jot it down on a scrap of paper).
NB: in each case where a student approached me directly, I passed on this interaction to the teacher in charge as it may have been an indicator of child safety concerns.
As psychologist and mum Carley McGauran shares, "even in the best, most supportive family environments, kids will not want to tell their parents everything. Young people need to know that they can seek help beyond their parents, whether it be talking to teachers, extended family, sports coaches or the Kids Helpline. It is our role as adults in their lives to make these avenues of support explicitly known".
So today I ask each of you reading this, be teacher or parent, to take 10 minutes to sit and explore the Kids Helpline (www.kidshelpline.com.au) with the young people in your life. Discuss how they can get help via phone, email, webchat or just browsing the help articles. Make sure to highlight that the person at the other end is a trusted adult (ie. trained counsellor).