A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school in Marion, South Australia
Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Senior School - Edition 9 - 2019

Cyber Safety Seminars

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Susan McLean from Cyber Safety Solutions spoke with Senior School staff, parents and students from Years 7 to 12 about being safe in the online world. Susan is Australia’s leading presenter of this material and has spoken to over 65,000 students, as well as giving many other presentations to organisations such as the Australian Football League, Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia. She is involved with developing government policy and her knowledge in this area is sought across the world.

Her message is one of making good decisions based on correct information which she presents in a very no-nonsense manner, and I believe the real life examples she used to reinforce her message made an impact on all the groups she spoke with. I hope your child/children went home and discussed what they heard on Tuesday and I would encourage all parents to make themselves familiar with strategies they can use to support them to act in a safe manner when online.

It was disappointing that we had only a small number of parents attend the evening session as the information Susan provided and the strategies she promoted can make parents more able to support their children to make safe choices when using technology.

One place families can go to find information about being safe online is the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner www.esafety.gov.au. This website has many valuable tips for parents in helping keep their children safe. The advice they give for parents of teenagers is below but I would encourage you to access this site for other information.

Teenagers can spend a lot of time online — instant messaging, sharing photos and videos, playing online games and using online chat and voice chat through social media services can be a big part of their social identity.

It can be a great experience but there are risks. You can help equip them with the skills to manage these risks and deal with negative situations.

For teenagers, it is important to:

  • Keep things open. Have an ‘open door’ policy when devices are used in bedrooms, and check in with them regularly to see what they are viewing.
  • Stay engaged. Ask about their online experiences, who they are talking to online and whether they are having any issues.
  • Reinforce the importance of protecting their personal information and privacy. Remind them to create screen names or IDs that do not indicate gender, age, name or location and are not sexually suggestive.
  • Equip them to use social media responsibly. Terms of use for each service cover the rules for using the site, the type of content that can be posted and any age requirements. Go through these with your child to make sure they understand what is expected of them.
  • Explain that linking social media accounts can make it easier for strangers to learn about them, so it is best to keep accounts separate.
  • Encourage them to think before they post. They should ask questions like: Who might see this? Could it be misread by others? Am I creating the right image for myself socially and for school and work opportunities?
  • Remind them that they could expose themselves to risk by sharing sexually suggestive or intimate images of themselves or others. Check out our advice on sending nudes and sexting.
  • Keep building self-respect, empathy and resilience. In particular, be aware of the impact of social media on self-esteem.

This term we have had three high quality presentations to students all with the aim of equipping them with information to allow them to make good decisions. Paul Dillon presented on Drugs and Alcohol, Barnaby French from the Metropolitan Fire Service discussed being safe on roads and, as mentioned, Susan spoke this week on online safety. Whilst their topics were different, their common aim is to equip young people with the information and strategies to make the right decisions. The feedback from the students from all sessions suggests that our students are better equipped to make good decisions to keep themselves and others safe.

End of Semester

As the first semester comes to an end and reports are released, it is always an appropriate time for staff and students to review their performance, which often will be measured against goals that had been set at the beginning of the year.

I encourage all students to assess whether they are achieving their goals and making the most of the opportunities that Westminster has to offer in and out of the classroom. If targets have not been met then the reasons why have to investigated. The first place to look is in the comments of House Heads, which often provide advice for improvement. Discussions with subject teachers, House Heads or other staff can also be helpful.

Once the information has been gathered it is then time for decisions to be made with respect to goals and how they are going to be achieved. Setting a long-term goal, whether it be a career, end of year results, making a particular team or band, people need a target at which to aim. At this point short-term goals will need to be set to aid in the achievement of the long-term goal. These goals should be achievable but challenging so that the achievement of the goals results in growth of the individual and there is continued motivation to keep working towards the long-term goal.

Setting goals alone will not ensure success unless there is a strategy in place, much of which is linked to persistence and hard work, together with seeking help when required. Managing time effectively so that adequate time is allocated to academic study, co-curricular activities and just relaxing is critical and requires prioritising these areas of life. It is possible that the priorities of some students are not going to lead to achievement of either their short term or long-term goals.

Short-term sacrifices need to be made in order to achieve long-term goals. With only 13 school weeks left before Year 12 exams, the end of Secondary education is near for Year 12 students but there is still time to make significant improvement - but only if a disciplined and positive attitude is maintained for the remainder of the year.

I encourage all students from Year 8 to 12 to spend some time during the holidays to reflect on their performance and honestly assess if they are working as hard as they can and are taking advantage of the opportunities that exist at Westminster and be the best you can be.

David Wallage
Head of Senior School