Young & eSafe is a series of teaching resources published by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. Learn about some strategies to teach and talk about digital resilience in your classroom.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner works to keep Australians safer online by providing resources, programs and services which promote positive online behaviour. Silje Andersen-Cooke, Youth Advisor at the eSafety Office, introduces the Young & eSafe platform which helps adolescents develop social and emotional skills for respectful relationships and resilience in a digital context.
Teen engagement online
The use of social media services by young people in Australia is almost ubiquitous, with teenagers aged 13-17 making use of five separate social media services on average (Office of the eSafety Commissioner, 2018).
Making and maintaining social connections, self-expression and entertainment are just some of the benefits of participating online. However, we also know teens are more likely to engage with strangers, share their passwords or experience negativity online (Office of the eSafety Commissioner, 2018). In addition, young people are still developing impulse control, emotional intelligence, and the ability to identify consequences and risks.
Online safety in the curriculum
Competing priorities can make it challenging to incorporate online safety into existing curricula, however teaching these skills has never been more pertinent. A cross curricula approach to teaching online safety is an effective way to ensure students understand its relevance in their lives. Content should also reflect students’ real-world context and align with their stages of development.
A comprehensive approach should cover online and respectful relationships, cyberbullying, bystander behaviour, security and protecting personal information, balancing time online, and accessing support. There are a range of opportunities in the curriculum to teach these skills, especially within the PDHPE, English, and information and software technology syllabuses.
Fostering strong personal, social and emotional capabilities in young people is also essential. As ACARA (2018) highlights, ‘students with well-developed social and emotional skills find it easier to manage themselves,relate to others, develop resilience and a sense of self-worth, resolve conflict, engage in teamwork and feel positive about themselves and the world around them’. Research reveals that classroom-based anti-bullying content is particularly effective when it focuses on two key areas: developing students’ social and emotional competencies, and encouraging positive bystander behaviour (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017).
In the Australian curriculum, the learning areas or subjects with the highest proportion of content descriptions tagged with personal and social capability are:
- health and physical education
- the arts
- F-6/7 humanities and social sciences.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides a range of engaging and evidence-based classroom resources to help teachers design lessons and start conversations about online communications. Tailored for primary and secondary levels, these resources cover themes such as digital citizenship, online safety, respect and cyberbullying, and include lesson plans, games, quizzes, animations and more.
Young & eSafe
Developed by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, Young & eSafe is an online platform for young people and educators, aimed at students aged 12 to 17 (Stages 4 and 5). The content focuses on five key themes: critical thinking, respect, resilience, responsibility and empathy.
Young & eSafe provides practical advice by young people, for young people. In developing the resources, we asked young people what skills they needed. Some responses included: ‘we need to be able to get back up when things go wrong’ and ‘we need to respect other people’s differences’.
Co-created with psychologists from Kids Helpline, Young & eSafe lesson plans were also developed with insights into the trends and issues experienced by young people who seek assistance via the Helpline.
The Young & eSafe platform features:
- five short theme-based videos
- quotes, personal stories and images from young people about their experiences online
- questions prompting analytical thought about situations and actions in each theme area
- practical steps that can be taken to build online safety skills
- guidance on where to seek professional help
- 10 lesson plans with practical exercises to reinforce respectful and responsible online behaviours.
Flexible delivery options
When taught as a complete package, the resources provide students with opportunities to reflect on their current online behaviours, imagine what a more positive online world would look like, and start taking steps to change their behaviour and outlook.
Young & eSafe can also be used in the following ways:
- as part of a peer-mentoring or digital leadership program
- as a springboard to investigate topics that interest students
- as conversation starters, using the five short videos
- as part of a broader unit of work, for example digital literacy skills
- as a standalone activity.
Young & eSafe lesson plans and activities
The lesson plans provide comprehensive background information for each of the five themes. They are designed to help teachers understand social and emotional skills in the digital context, and to teach the skills necessary for respectful online relationships.
Critical thinking is particularly important online, where information can be easily changed, manipulated or taken out of context.
- Lesson 1 provides a practical exercise to develop critical thinking skills by evaluating the trustworthiness and reliability of three online information sources.
- Lesson 2 uses media images to invite students to explore texts critically, evaluating content and differentiating between fact and opinion.
Respect is a value that most students are familiar with, from both home and school. These contexts form good starting points when drawing the link to online behaviours.
- Lesson 1 identifies disrespectful and respectful responses and develops an understanding of respectful online communication.
- Lesson 2 examines a controversial social media post and provides an opportunity for students to practise being respectful and empathetic to different viewpoints.
The online world can be challenging, and young people need resilience to help them bounce back from stressful situations.
- Lesson 1 develops resilience skills, including how to identify support networks, manage emotions and problem solve.
- Lesson 2 examines the 'I get back up' video and develops students’ resilience skills through reflecting on their own self-care and coping strategies.
Young people are responsible online when they understand and apply their rights and obligations– such as their right to privacy and the obligation to stay within the law.
- Lesson 1 examines a personal story to help students appreciate the importance of supporting others and speaking out about harmful content or behaviours.
- Lesson 2 examines the 'I am responsible' video and leads students to reflect on their personal responsibility when faced with conflict.
Students demonstrate empathy online when they recognise and respond to others in a way that takes into account their feelings and beliefs. Empathy skills are developed through practice and actively supporting others online.
- Lesson 1 provides a guided mindfulness activity with the aim of generating empathy for someone experiencing cyberbullying.
- Lesson 2 examines the 'I feel for others' video, followed by a practical activity to guide students with appropriate ways to respond with empathy.
Keeping up to date with online safety resources
The Young & eSafe suite of resources is one of many evidence-based offerings available to assist schools in developing students’ skills around online safety. Teachers may also subscribe for updates regarding new resources, information, events and advice from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
Article reproduced with permission.
Buchanan, R., Southgate, E., Scevak, J., & Smith, S. P.2018, ‘Expert insights into education for positive digital footprint development’, Scan, 37(2).
Curriculum and syllabus links
NSW Syllabus outcomes
- PD4-2 Examines and demonstrates the role help-seeking strategies and behaviours play in supporting themselves and others
- PD4-3 Investigates effective strategies to promote inclusivity, equality and respectful relationships
- PD4-9 Demonstrates self-management skills to effectively manage complex situations
- PD4-10 Applies and refines interpersonal skills to assist themselves and others to interact respectfully and promote inclusion in a variety of groups or context
- PD5-1 Assesses their own and others' capacity to reflect on and respond positively to challenges
- PD5-3 Analyses factors and strategies that enhance inclusivity, equality and respectful relationships
- PD5-9 Assesses and applies self-management skills to effectively manage complex situations
- PD5-10 Critiques their ability to enact interpersonal skills to build and maintain respectful and inclusive relationships in a variety of groups or contexts.
Australian Curriculum content descriptions
Health and Physical Education S4
- ACPP2072 Practise and apply strategies to seek help for themselves or others
- ACPPS073 Investigate and select strategies to promote health, safety and wellbeing
- ACPPS074 Investigate the benefits of relationships and examine their impact on their own and others' health and wellbeing
- ACPPS075 Analyse factors that influence emotions, and develop strategies to demonstrate empathy and sensitivity
- ACPPS079 Investigate the benefits to individuals and communities of valuing diversity and promoting inclusivity
Health and Physical Education S5
- ACPPS093 Investigate how empathy and ethical decision making contribute to respectful relationships
- ACPPS094 Evaluate situations and propose appropriate emotional responses and then reflect on possible outcomes of different responses
- ACPPS098 Critique behaviours and contextual factors that influence health and wellbeing of diverse communities
- 'ACARA General Capabilities: Personal and Social Capability', Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), accessed 23 January 2022
- 'Anti-bullying interventions in schools', Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE), accessed 23 January 2022
- 'State of play - youth, kids and digital dangers', Office of the eSafety Commissioner, accessed 23 January 2022
- 'Young & eSafe: teaching digital resilience', Andersen-Cooke, S. (2018) Scan, 37(5), accessed 31 January 2022