eSmarties stay safe online

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A peer taught e-Safety initiative at Villa Maria Catholic Primary Hunters Hill has emerged as a smart way to help students navigate the online world safely.

The school was recently accredited under the eSmart program, a national initiative to encourage safe behaviour online and reduce cyberbullying. It has been embraced by more than 2,200 schools across Australia. About 30 Sydney Catholic schools now use the framework to encourage safe and responsible use of information and communications technology.

Ellen Lagan and Joshua Barlow were among the seven Year 6 students who were appointed as Villa Maria’s first eSmarties. In Term 2, one was allocated to each grade from Kindergarten to Year 6 to lead class activities and discussion on cyber safety.

“We do eSmart in our class as well so we already had prior knowledge before we started,” Ellen said.

“For the Infants, Year 1 and Year 2, we do games and show videos or presentations with not too many words, more pictures.

“I think one of the biggest dangers online is that you don’t know who is behind another screen. You don’t always know who you’re talking to.”

Ellen said her internet usage between school and home was about half-and-half.

“I don’t use a lot of technology at home but I use it for messaging my friends, watching YouTube, doing homework and maybe playing a few games,” she said. “There aren’t many restrictions on You Tube so anything can pop up.”

I think one of the biggest dangers online is that you don’t know who is behind another screen.

Joshua said students filled out an application before being chosen as eSmarties. He said the peer model was one that made the younger students more engaged.

“I actually believe that kids listen to kids more than teachers,” he said.

“They just feel like it’s their friends talking to them and they get really, really engaged with what we’re teaching them.

“For Years 3 to 6 we did a Kahoot! quiz we created online, gave them information to remember and tested them. We also played games where you had to name good and bad things online and quizzes which really helped them to be safe.

“I think one of the worst things about online is probably the inappropriate use of language and imaging, because anyone can put anything online at the moment and there are no restrictions. I believe that they should push for restrictions online so kids can be safer and happy.”

Ellen said the student often taught the teachers more about the program too, along with the students.

“I feel like when the teachers are talking the students think ‘oh they’re probably going to talk about this again’, but when we come it’s more ‘what are they going to say today?’

“They listen, especially kindergarten because we’re their buddies, and when we come in they’re always excited.”

eSmart by numbers

2,200+ schools use the eSmart framework to encourage safe use of online resources.

2 to 3 years to become accredited as an eSmart school

7 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney are now eSmart accredited, and

30+ use the framework to access a vibrant and comprehensive digital citizenship curriculum.



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