Young & eSafe: Teaching digital resilience
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, esecurity 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, targeted at 12 to 17 year olds (Stages 4 and 5). 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.
Part of a critical thinking activity in Young & eSafe
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 esafety 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.
References and further reading
ACARA. (2018). General capabilities: Personal and social capability.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2017). Anti-bullying interventions in schools – what works?
Office of the eSafety Commissioner. (2018). State of play – youth, kids and digital dangers.
How to cite this article – Andersen-Cooke, S. (2018). Young & eSafe: Teaching digital resilience. Scan, 37(5).