Whether at home or school, using technology is critical for young people in many areas of life today. And as a result, children are accessing online spaces and tools now more than ever.

But there are also some very real safety challenges children can confront while online; privacy breaches, image abuse and grooming are among the potential threats they face.

Research into the digital life of Aussie teens, released last year by the eSafety Commissioner, shows young people are spending increasing amounts of time online (on average 14.4 hours a week), and four in 10 had at least one negative experience in the previous six months.

Smart ways to keep safe

Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the risks, and dedicated organisations and volunteers who are looking out for our young people’s online safety.

ThinkUKnow is an internet safety programme for parents, carers, educators and children, which raises awareness and delivers education about preventing online child sexual exploitation. The programme is led by the Australian Federal Police and delivered in partnership with industry, and State and Territory police.

A screenshot of the ThinkUknow website

ThinkUKnow addresses topics including self-generated online child sexual exploitation material, online grooming and sexual extortion. Importantly, the programme also identifies strategies that children – and their families – can use to protect themselves and seek help when faced with such threats.

Getting face-to-face with students and families

A key part of the ThinkUKnow programme is delivering face-to-face presentations at schools and other community locations. Some 800 presentations are delivered annually across Australia to tens of thousands of parents, carers, teachers and students.

The presentations are completely volunteer-led and for the ThinkUKnow team operating a programme of this scale involves coordinating many moving parts.

To continue delivering the programme, ThinkUKnow needs help on a number of fronts – from engaging suitable volunteers, to managing communication between volunteers and schools, to keeping on top of bookings and technical support.

Expanding the volunteer network

Datacom has been a critical ThinkUKnow partner for a decade, providing both volunteers to facilitate the programme and technical support and capability.

Datacom promotes opportunities to deliver ThinkUKnow presentations among its staff, and sets annual targets for volunteer numbers and presentation-training attendance to ensure a consistent number of volunteers. Since the inception of ThinkUKnow, the programme has doubled its number of registered volunteers enabling it to grow its reach.

Greg Furlong, Datacom’s General Manager, PSG Innovation and Growth Practices, is among those who have put up their hand to deliver ThinkUKnow presentations.

He was motivated to volunteer after seeing one of his own colleagues deal with the devastating consequences of their child experiencing challenges online.

“That first-hand experience has made me really passionate about getting involved, and preventing this from happening to other people. I believe encouraging conversations between parents and their children, or teachers and students, that prevent children from experiencing nasty cyber behaviours like grooming is really worthwhile work.”

PSG Innovation and Growth Practices GM Greg Furlong smiling at the camera
PSG Innovation and Growth Practices GM Greg Furlong is one of the Datacom team members who have put up their hand to deliver ThinkUKnow presentations designed to educate young people on how to keep themselves safe online.

Providing practical support

Datacom also backs the programme by providing technical support and capability.

Datacom owns the online tool used to coordinate ThinkUKnow bookings, and helps coordinate and support bookings via the web and phone through our contact centre operations. Technology is also used to deliver a location-based search application that connects with volunteers, and runs an SMS appointment reminder service.

“The Datacom Service Delivery team is extremely proud of the part we play in the ThinkUKnow programme,” says Datacom Operations Manager Laura Harris.

“It’s so important that we all play an active role, however big or small, in ensuring communities stay educated on all aspects of online safety for children. The team really feels like we are making a difference with each booking they confirm.”

Further technical capability supporting the program includes providing monthly performance reporting in web accessible dashboards through a data visualisation tools that support discussions and determining areas of improvement.

And Datacom leverages its position as Australasia’s largest homegrown tech company to promote ThinkUKnow through its website, intranet and other internal communications, and supports the programme with public relations and promotional activities.

Even when COVID-19 lockdowns limited face-to-face events during 2020 and 2021, ThinkUKnow was able to reach nearly 200,000 young people and thousands more teachers and parents through locally run initiatives, and participation in virtual educational events and forums.

Spreading the word

AFP Detective Superintendent Jayne Crossling says Datacom’s partnership with ThinkUKnow means the programme can reach more parents, carers, and teachers to deliver important online child safety information to keep children safe online.

“We share Datacom’s vision for using technology safely and acknowledge the many benefits that technology can bring to the community.”

ThinkUKnow presentations can be booked by any school, organisation, sporting club, youth or community group. To book a presentation or for advice and support visit www.ThinkUKnow.org.au

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