Be Cybersavvy Report

Ex “Cyber Cop”, Susan McLean didn’t pull her punches, when she presented some of the stark facts about the pitfalls for young people when using modern communication technology, at the recent program on cybersafety held in Aireys Inlet. The seminar was the brain-child of the Aireys Inlet congregation’s Outreach Team and designed to fulfil the team’s goals of reaching young families and acting as witnesses to God’s love in the community.  The team was delighted to receive the financial support from the Presbytery of Port Phillip West’s Simpson Bequest, with additional sponsorship from the Anglesea and District Community Bank and the Surf Coast Shire, enabling the event to be staged free of charge.

Ms McLean presented a series of age-appropriate seminars to the students of the Lorne-Aireys Inlet P-12 College during the day and an event for parents and community members in the evening.  Many local grand-parents also took up the opportunity to learn more about what visiting grand-children might be up to while in their care.  Some students judged Ms McLean’s presentation to be the best they’d ever experienced.

Considered by many to be the nation’s foremost expert on this subject, Ms McLean has worked widely with government, private organisations and sporting bodies. She is sought after by the media for comment on an almost daily basis and has appeared on numerous television programs, including an investigation of the practise of “sexting” on 60 Minutes. She has recently been in the US where she visited the corporate headquarters of Facebook.  Ms McLean declares and that she loves using technology, but is passionate about teaching young people and their carers about how to use it safely.

The students learned about the permanent nature of all forms of digital and online communication, where records are never erased.  Ms McLean warned the young people that their digital identities would be crucial to their future job prospects, with employers making judgements based on their email address – <> did not get her application for a teaching position opened. Facebook profile pictures and online photo albums are all now used by employers to judge the suitability of job applicants.   Feedback has indicated that several young people went home and made immediate changes to their Facebook pages.

Ms McLean was able to provide an example of on-line “grooming” from her recent visit to a very remote location in outback Queensland, where a student of the local school was befriended by someone through an internet game.  The student was fortunate that a chance conversation with the school principal, revealing that his new “friend” was offering free phone credit, uncovered an approach by a paedophile, before any real harm was done.

As an ex-police officer, Susan McLean was well placed to inform her audiences about the law in relation to “sexting”, (the sending of naked or sexually explicit photographs by phone or internet.)  Anyone in possession of a naked photograph of a person under 18 can be charged with possession of child pornography and find their way on to the Sexual Offenders Register.

Ms McLean repeated the familiar warnings about password security and wasn’t prepared to listen to excuses, urging that all passwords should be changed four times a year. “If you’re attached to your password, because it’s Fluffy the cat, you can choose. Either change your password, or get a new cat four times a year.”

Parents were as interested as the young people, to hear what Ms McLean had to say about social networking sites such as Facebook.  She demonstrated how parents can ensure that privacy settings are secure and strongly warned against the common practice among children of providing a false age to get around Facebook’s age limit of 13.

Ms McLean encouraged parents to be pro-active when it comes to keeping their children safe on-line, warning against the use of computers and phones behind closed doors.  “Just as you like to know where your children are physically, you need to know where they are online.”

Mary Bremner

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