Bunbury, Busselton students learn about online safety in Digital Thumbprint program backed by major telco

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenSouth Western Times
One of the Digital Thumbprint program classes at Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School.
Camera IconOne of the Digital Thumbprint program classes at Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School. Credit: Supplied

Students in Bunbury and Busselton are a bit more switched on to the risks of the online, digital world after a cyber safety program made a stop in the region.

The Digital Thumbprint program by Optus held in-person sessions in three schools in the South West early this month as part of a regional roadshow by the major telco.

Optus regional WA territorial manager Paul O’Neill said it was important for students to be taught about subjects including internet safety and cyber bullying.

“With the significant rise in children using the internet in these age groups, we have made it a priority to ensure the safety of its users,” he said.

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More than 850 students from Years 5-9 participated in 12 separate sessions at Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School, Newton Moore Senior High School and Georgiana Molloy Anglican School discussing cybersecurity, cyberbullying, digital discernment and digital identity.

The cybersecurity classes focused on strong passwords, social media privacy settings, identifying potential online dangers and reducing risks, while cyberbullying classes discussed treatment of other people online and offline, and offering support in cyberbullying situations.

The digital discernment classes targeted older students and taught them about media intent, how to judge media that is presented to them, and reporting fake news and misinformation, while the digital identity tutorials discussed how different content can impact it and ways students can improve theirs.

Mr O’Neill described the lessons he witnessed last week as “fantastic”.

“I saw an incredible amount of engagement from pupils but also from some of the teachers as well where they didn’t know certain facts and figures, so it was great,” he said.

While the classes focused on going direct to students, Mr O’Neill noted the role important role parents and family play in young people’s digital awareness and alertness.

“They can guide their children on how to navigate the internet safely and appropriately, helping them develop a healthy online habit that will benefit them in the long run,” he said.

“I am parent myself so the role that we play to lead these conversations with children and being across what they’re potentially exposed to.

“We shouldn’t be bystanders — we need proactively involved in that digital relationship with our kids and making sure their cyber safety is very paramount.”

It is the second time the Digital Thumbprint program has come to the South West, with the last classes being held in 2019. Optus has been running the program nationally since 2013.

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