Cyber Safety for Students: The Ultimate Guide
Introduction to Cyber Safety for Students
From cyber safety education and cyberbullying, to ethical online behaviour and using technology responsibly, Brainstorm Productions delivers a range of cyber safety programs using live in-school theatre.
Students are empowered with meaningful strategies including building better relationships online, protecting their digital footprint and how to behave in ways that enhance their online safety.
Teachers are provided with a deeply engaging program that offers a fresh perspective on cyber safety education including emotional intelligence, building student resilience and demonstrating the implications of harmful online behaviour.
Below you'll find comprehensive information about a range of cyber safety topics’ including what is cyber safety education, why it’s important for students, cyber safety education for primary and high schools and the benefits of using theatre when teaching students about cyber safety.
You’ll also discover hints and tips on safe gaming, balancing screen time, privacy awareness, cyberbullying and the importance of staying connected offline.
Plus much more!
Read along or use the below links to jump ahead to your topic of interest:
- Topic 1: What is Cyber Safety Education?
- Topic 2: Why is Cyber Safety for Students Important?
- Topic 3: Cyber Safety for Primary and High Schools
- Topic 4: Why use Theatre for Cyber Safety Education?
- Topic 5: Teachers and Cyber Safety Education using Drama
Please also feel free to reach out to our team with any questions you may have, free call 1800 676 224 or to email click here.
Cyber Safety education encompasses a broad-range of topics designed to help students stay safe online. This can include, but is not limited to:
- The importance of staying safe online, including the dangers
- How to become a stand-up digital citizen
- Developing positive online relationships
- Identifying when online usage becomes excessive
- The legal ramifications of online usage, including sexting
- How to safely join and participate in online communities and on social media
- The legacy of your digital footprint and reputation
- Understanding the consequences of risky online actions
- The importance of protecting yourself online
- Being careful with what personal information you share
Brainstorm Productions have been touring their student cyber safety programs since 2003 (yes, before Facebook!). In the beginning, these programs tackled issues surrounding MySpace, text messaging and e-mail bullying.
Over time, and with the ever increasing use of digital technology by primary and high school students, these programs have been expanded to tackle a wide-range of cyber safety issues including cyberbullying, how to stay safe using different forms of online technology and social media sites, keeping personal information private, reporting cyberbullying, how to balance online time, online gaming and chatting, digital reputation, sexting, offensive online behaviour, digital citizenship, trolling and the serious risks of unwanted contact with strangers, to name just a few.
In 2016, Brainstorm Productions was one of the first cyber safety education providers to receive full certification by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. To view our full range of primary and high school programs click here:
As parents and educators, we also have an ethical obligation when handing over smartphones and other internet connected devices to young people and we need to provide students with the tools to become good, if not great, digital citizens.
Technology is not without its pitfalls. Fear of missing out (FOMO) means some children and teenagers use social websites and apps almost 24/7. Recent studies demonstrate that the internet can affect young people’s sleep, mental health, safety and social skills.
We need to understand the impact of technology, and have the skills and knowledge to guide young people to use the internet safely.
So let’s start at the beginning, and firstly explore how screen time affects young people:
Balanced Screen Time
Screen time is a major concern for many parents and teachers. Children are learning to use digital devices from a young age and primary school students regularly use technology for entertainment and to socialise with their friends, while high school student’s smartphone usage is ubiquitous.
The latest Child Health Poll found that one-third of Australian pre-schoolers, two-thirds of primary school children and almost all teenagers own their own tablet or smartphone.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner warns excessive screen time can contribute to sleep difficulties, obesity and poor school performance.
A 2018 study in Preventative Medicine Reports found that any screen time beyond one hour per day was associated with lower psychological wellbeing in children and teens, including poorer self-control, curiosity, emotional stability, and poorer ability to complete tasks, manage distractions and make friends.
It has also been argued that screen time stunts imaginative play by saturating the senses with a constant stream of entertainment.
Digital health expert Dr Kristy Goodwin says displacement effects are one of the biggest issues – the more time kids spend on screens, the less time they are spending outdoors in sunlight, being physically active and developing balance, coordination and social skills.
How much time should kids spend on devices?
The Australian Government’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour guidelines recommend no more than two hours of leisure screen time per day for 5 to 17 year-olds. Dr Anthea Rhodes, paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital, also recommends keeping screens out of the bedroom, and says it’s best to have no screens one hour before bed.
While most parents try really hard to limit their children’s screen time, it’s becoming an increasing struggle, and many parents are left feeling ineffective and frustrated. Some experts believe the current guidelines are unrealistic, and should be updated to be more applicable to our screen-saturated world.
And these recommendations don't include time spent on devices at school and doing homework.
Margaret Kristin Murga from Murdoch University notes that most students are already exceeding the recommended screen time for leisure and believes we need guidelines that account for the hours spent using devices for schoolwork.
So what about screen time in the classroom?
There are differing opinions about how devices should be used in education.
An SBS Insight program revealed that many Australian schools are embracing technology in the classroom, and BYOD (bring your own device) policies are common practice.
Staff from schools such as Lansvale Public School in Sydney’s south-west believe that when it’s well integrated into the learning environment, technology provides opportunities for more critical, curious and self-directed learning. It's preparing students for a rapidly changing world and an uncertain future.
When used appropriately, technology can make learning more engaging, interactive and efficient. Year 4 student Nini says "I use them [iPads] to research, they enhance my learning. I research the definition of the word rather than look it up in a big dusty dictionary".
However, some teachers are observing a reduction in students’ ability to focus when there are devices in the room.
They are struggling to keep students on task and compete with the distractions on tablets and laptops. A lot of students use hotspots to access blocked websites, and monitoring of internet use is an ongoing challenge. Teachers are finding pack up time is a battle when devices are involved and that technology is putting pressure on student-teacher relationships.
Most teachers would agree with the need for restrictions on smartphone use; however policies differ greatly between schools. Some students are able to self-moderate their technology use, but this is a big ask for most, especially primary school students.
The importance of balancing screen time at school
In addition to clear limits and guidance, students need balance when it comes to their technology use.
In fact, students often appreciate the value of screen-free learning time.
Year 10 student Matt says "everyone’s so much more involved when we’re not using computers. I feel much more focused in class". And Year 12 student Jack says he remembers content better when he uses a pen and paper.
Year 6 student Suzanne points out "I've got other things to do besides going on my devices".
Whatever your school's approach to technology, students still need to learn through a range of media and methods, using all of their senses.
They need to learn how to read from a book, write and draw with their hands, move their bodies in different ways, understand social cues and interact with nature. They need to learn how to focus on a single task, even tasks that may be boring. And they need to learn how to tune in to their thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
Creative activities like music, dancing, visual arts and drama can give students a variety of hands-on learning experiences. They require students to use different parts of the brain and expose them to the richness of human experience.
According to musician and activist Billy Bragg, "music can make you feel empathy for people that you've never met and for situations that you yourself have never been in...it can give you a different perspective, that helps you to deal with the world...any art - a play, a poem, a film, a song - can help you to psychologically prepare yourself for moments of stress".
Break up screen time with theatre in education
Theatre in education can be employed by teachers to enhance their cyber safety education and school resilience programs, and give students a break from technology.
Cyber safety for students is essential, but it doesn't need to be addressed using screens. In fact, students may learn more from a live theatre performance than they do from a movie with the same themes.
Brainstorm Productions offers a range of high school and primary school productions that explore issues like cyberbullying, cyber safety, screen time, balance, resilience, physical activity and respectful relationships, using the medium of live theatre.
Theatre in education requires students to focus on one thing for an extended period of time, rather than constantly switching between tasks and stimuli. It engages them in a narrative and gives them the chance to connect with the actors in front of them, without the mediating effect of screens.
Research suggests that school theatre productions can improve social perspective taking, tolerance of others and willingness to accept different opinions.
The issue of screen time is at the forefront of the minds of parents, teachers, scientists and policy makers. As the digital world evolves, so does our understanding of how technology is impacting on children. We need to stay tuned in to the needs of students and ensure they have access to a wide range of learning opportunities.
The Impacts of Smartphones
Smartphones impact sleep
Children are getting significantly less sleep than they need and research puts this down to screen time. Students that are sleep deprived can be hyper sensitive or more irritable and aggressive, potentially making them the perpetrators or victims of cyberbullying or bullying at school. Lack of sleep can affect their decision making skills on and offline.
Studies have found that teenagers need eight to nine hours sleep a night to feel rested. But teenagers who have screen time for more than four hours a day are three-and-a-half times more likely to sleep less than five hours a night. Late bedtimes and the bright light from the device effects the circadian rhythm needed for natural, healthy sleep. Teens report headaches, tension and muscle aches, which can be caused by posture when using a device for extended periods. Phones and devices also cause psychological arousal, which makes it difficult for teens to relax before bed.
The dangers of virtual reality
The smartphone and the internet in general do more than affect our sleep. They create a whole new reality. When we use a smartphone, and in particular, the internet, we step into a virtual reality. For some young people, this new reality can be more interesting than real life. It takes us anywhere, and connects us with anyone. It is becoming increasingly difficult to supervise young people on devices so cyber safety programs are essential to address online ethical behaviour and cyber safety.
We have vast amounts of information at our fingertips, and the opportunity to step into almost any world, or any life we desire. Young people can be exposed to inappropriate material and cyberbullying.
In their virtual lives, young people have a certain control they may feel they don’t have in real life. They can stay anonymous, so there is a perception that their true identity is not impacted by their online behaviours.
Although it feels like we control our reality in a virtual world, much of the time, the reality controls us.
New studies show that social media use impacts mental health of teenagers, particularly their self-esteem and well-being. Issues are associated with body image and cyberbullying. ‘Facebook depression’ is a term researchers use to describe this phenomenon.
Cyberbullying is when people are sent hurtful, nasty or threatening messages or photos through the internet. A person’s image or facts about a person might be shared with a large online community in a harmful way.
One of the dangers of cyberbullying is that it can be hard to track the source. It has a wide impact, as many people see the harmful comments and images. People experiencing cyberbullying may feel defenseless and disempowered, ashamed, guilty and unsafe. Teachers need to have access to internet safety programs and digital citizenship resources to help guide young people in the healthy use of technology, and protect them from associated harmful effects.
Moral obligation when handing over devices
As parents and educators, we need to know the facts and potential consequences of internet use. And we need to connect with internet safety resources and digital citizenship resources, so we can guide safe internet use.
Reach Out provides strategies to help a person who is being cyberbullied:
- Keep a record of bullying
- Report the bullying to eSafety Commissioner or Australian Human Rights Commission
- Avoid responding or engaging
- Talk to someone about the impacts
- Log out
General cyber safety tips include:
- Don’t share personal information
- Ensure privacy settings are correct and up to date
Digital Citizenship provides more information for students, teachers and parents about being safe and responsible online.
We need to watch out for signs that a young person is being harassed online, such as withdrawal, or refusal to engage with normal activities. Signs of phone addiction include avoiding normal activities and social contact.
Stay open to children about their online world and encourage teenagers to talk to you about their concerns, and online behaviours. In this way, we can help guide young people through this new reality.
Our privacy is valuable. And now, more than ever, we need to protect it.
As a society, we are beginning to understand the consequences of sharing our personal information online. We are becoming increasingly concerned with how our data is being used and misused.
Advances in technology present new risks to our privacy and security. Spam, scams, identity theft and fraud are just some of the risks we face when we use our devices.
With this awareness has come growing concern for the privacy of children and young people online. So how do we keep them safe?
Protecting the privacy of children and teens online
Whether we like it or not, devices, apps, games and social media are a big part of life for most kids. And despite the age restrictions, more and more children are logging on to platforms before the age of 13.
According to a recent article in The Atlantic, the "kid internet" provides children, parents and educators with so many creative and connective possibilities; however, the major platforms are not doing enough to protect children in this growing online space.
Contrary to popular belief, kids do care about their privacy. But they need support and guidance from trusted adults to help them make good decisions and stay safe.
Below are seven tips to help parents and teachers protect the privacy of young people online.
1. Start conversations about privacy
It's important for cyber safety education to start early. By initiating these conversations from a young age, you are sending the message that privacy is important.
Let kids know they have a right to privacy and there are laws in place to protect it. Discuss the reasons for age restrictions, and explain the risks in an age-appropriate way.
Ask them what they are worried about when it comes to their privacy. Identify areas where they need more knowledge or support.
Cyber safety programs in schools can help start a dialogue about privacy in the classroom, the playground and at home.
2. Help them think before they share
Kids may feel pressured to share their thoughts, feelings and images on social media and may be asked to provide personal details in order to access games and apps.
Discuss the idea that personal information has value, just like money. They should be selective about the information they give away, and only provide details that are absolutely necessary. Remind them that posts can be shared without their knowledge, so they should be careful about what they disclose, even to their friends.
Most kids are aware of the concept of a ‘digital footprint’. Remind them that they may feel comfortable sharing something now, but this could change in the future.
Teach them simple skills, like taking three deep breaths or counting to 10, to help build in a pause before sharing their personal details.
If they are unsure about whether to share information, they should always ask an adult.
They also need to be aware of scams. We need to take a moment and ask ourselves "is this for real?". With the rise of online scams designed to steal our money, passwords and identities, this is a good tip for kids and adults to keep in mind.
3. Update privacy settings
It is essential that kids know how to change their privacy settings to control who can access their personal information. Privacy settings need to be tailored according to their age, the platform they are using and the type of information they are sharing.
Some apps like Snapchat, for example, have settings that allow users to see the current locations of their friends. This can put children at serious risk, so it is important to be aware of these settings and ensure they know how to turn their location services off.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides current information about privacy settings on specific platforms, including defaults and potential risks.
4. Read privacy policies and collection notices
We all know we should read them, but most of us don’t. However, it is really important to read these notices so you understand how information about your children or students is being collected, and how it will be used and protected.
Involve kids in this process, so they understand what they are giving up when they click 'I agree'.
Although most terms and conditions are lengthy and confusing, they contain important information about your privacy rights. To demonstrate this point, a privacy lawyer in England re-wrote Instagram's terms and conditions in plain language. Some of the points that emerged were simply "don't use anybody else's account without their permission or try to find out their login details" and "don't bully anyone or post anything horrible about people". Good advice, right?
According to this easy-to-understand version, users are also advised by Instagram that "officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world".
5. Manage passwords
Strong, secure passwords are essential for maintaining your privacy. Passwords should be a random combination of numbers, letters and punctuation, and should never include personal information such as birthdates or names. Passwords should be changed regularly and not be used across multiple accounts. Using a password manager is a good way to keep a secure record of all your passwords.
Explain to your students or children that they must not share their passwords with anyone, especially at school or online. However, it may be appropriate for parents to know their childrens' passwords, in order to monitor online behaviour and keep them safe.
6. Encourage respectful online behaviour
Privacy awareness is not just about protecting your own privacy, but also the privacy of others. It is not only a right; it is a responsibility.
We all have access to information about our friends and families and we need to teach kids that sharing personal details can have a negative impact on others. Before posting something about another person we should stop and ask: Is this information private? Is it sensitive? Is it necessary for me to share it?
Encourage them to act with empathy, compassion and respect, just as they would in their face-to-face interactions.
Schools already need to obtain permission before posting students' personal details and images. But parents should also stop and think before sharing information about themselves and their children. Kids will be more likely to take messages about privacy seriously if you model those behaviours yourself.
7. Know how to access information and support
Kids need to know there is always help available if something goes wrong. If they share something they regret or are the target of a scam, there are people they can turn to. The first step should always be to tell a trusted adult, so they can help them decide what to do next.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides cyber safety information for children, adolescents and adults. They have a complaints and reporting service, which not only responds to complaints of cyberbullying and inappropriate content, but also helps people remove content that has been shared without their consent.
Stay Smart Online is another government organisation that provides simple information about how to stay safe on the internet and keep your information secure.
Brainstorm Productions provide high quality internet safety education to schools across Australia, through theatre, storytelling, post-performance discussions and classroom resources. Each program is designed to encourage students to think about their privacy and take meaningful steps to protect it, including sharing passwords, digital footprint and internet scams.
As educators, the battles we are fighting, together with parents, to keep children safe online, can feel impossible to beat at times, from inappropriate content to online predators to privacy issues.
One battle that we can help students with, is teaching them how to deal with cyberbullying. Cyberbullying statistics in Australia have shown “over 80% of those who bullied others online would also do so offline.” Moreover, “84% of those who were bullied online were also victims of bullying behaviour offline.”
Teaching students to how to manage this social issue is essential if we want to raise a generation that does not tolerate online abuse. The following tips are designed to help students when confronted with cyberbullying:
Cyberbullying tips for students:
Identify it – Students have to recognise what cyberbullying looks like, so that they won’t indulge in it or ignore it. Things like spreading false rumours, mean texts, sharing other people’s images without their consent, threats, hurtful comments and identity theft are all forms of cyberbullying.
Speak up – Reports in Australia have shown how “a quarter of all cyberbullies target people they do not even know.” This means that some students could be cyberbullied simply because the bully — a total stranger — was bored or felt like picking on somebody. Students need to know how to report cyberbullies and when to speak up for the person being victimised. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides advice for parents and schools about how to respond to cyberbullying.
Save evidence – Whether it is to stop a cyberbully and help the victim, or to protect themselves, teaching students about the importance of evidence is critical when tackling a cyberbully. Collecting screenshots, emails and messages will all help to shut down the bullying.
Value privacy – It is important to teach students that certain content, like inappropriate images and videos, or passwords, should never be shared online, no matter how much they trust a person. This content could be used against them as a form of cyberbullying.
Nurture empathy – Instilling empathy in students will help keep them away from the temptation of bullying someone online. Moreover, empathy means students will put themselves in someone else’s shoes, so they will find it more difficult to ignore cyberbullying when they see that someone is being abused online.
64% of Australian girls aged 6 to 12 have reported being cyberbullied and this statistic is not taking into account the countless others that were not reported. We can never obliterate cyberbullying but we can give students the skills to shut down online abuse.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that we need to take seriously and battle against, so that tragedies related to such abuse can be avoided.
Video Games and Online Gaming
The popularity of digital and online games is rapidly increasing, and it doesn't look like slowing down. Not only are more people playing games, but they’re also watching other people play through live streaming and e-sport tournaments.
Many parents and teachers are concerned by the fervour surrounding games like Fortnite and the increasing use of games among primary school students. But no matter how you feel about gaming, there's one thing you can be sure of: gaming is here to stay.
So what's good about gaming?
We spoke to a 17-year-old gamer Max (not his real name) about why he plays video games and what he loves about them.
As expected, Max's top reason is entertainment - games are just fun! They allow you to explore different worlds, solve puzzles and work towards a goal. Some people use gaming to relieve stress, as a way to relax and unwind at the end of the day. According to technology and learning researcher Joanne Orlando, many kids play games as a form of escapism, and because they're often creative, complex and allow them to achieve success.
Gaming provides an opportunity for social interaction. Whether it's gaming with friends in the same physical space, or communicating virtually through the game, games provide a shared focus, interest and goal. These interactions can lead to further connections in the real world and help kids meet their social needs.
Friendships that start with gaming often extend to other shared interests and hobbies, like merchandise collecting, fan art, films, books, sports or non-digital games. Team-based games may also promote cooperation and communication skills.
Max believes games have helped him develop valuable skills, many of which can be applied in the real world, like problem-solving, reaction time and coordination. And research does suggest that gaming is associated with improvements in cognitive skills such as visual processing, attention, problem-solving and creativity. Specific skills like touch typing, budgeting and financial decision-making can also be developed as a result of playing games.
Games can impart knowledge about the world and historical events. And while not all games have a positive message, some encourage critical thinking about ethics, values and consequences. The increasing popularity of 'serious games' indicates that many parents and educators are now using games to facilitating learning.
What are the risks of gaming?
While most people enjoy problem-free gaming, it isn’t always fun. Our 17-year-old gamer Max identifies one of the major hazards as 'toxic' players who bully, harass, troll or abuse other players, often under the cloak of anonymity.
Safety is also an issue, particularly for children and young people. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner warns grooming is a real risk within online games, and predators do use games to target children.
Security risks are also rife in online gaming. Scammers create unsecure websites, fake messages requesting financial information, offers of free games or surveys that trick players into giving up their personal details. While the game companies are now doing more to protect their users, security is still a major issue that all players should be aware of.
Max points out that some kids spend too much time on games. This can cause them to neglect other parts of their life such as family, friends, school or work. They might become obsessed with one game and their interests become restricted. They can lose touch with friends and forget how to socialise outside the game.
Excessive gaming can impact on sleep, with some kids playing late into the night. This can cause them to feel tired and have difficulty concentrating at school. They may neglect their diet and spend little to no time doing physical activities.
While only a small proportion of people will experience serious issues with gaming, it's important to know the signs that gaming is becoming a problem for a child or young person. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner notes that kids might become withdrawn, isolated and spend more time in their room. They may be tired all the time or not be looking after their personal hygiene. As Max points out, they might feel angry and anxious, and become obsessed with playing one particular game.
According to the World Health Organisation, Gaming Disorder may be diagnosed when someone has limited control over their gaming behaviour, prioritises gaming over other activities and interests, and continues or escalates their game-play despite negative consequences. This diagnosis applies only when the problems are sufficiently severe to cause significant impairment in important areas of functioning, and if it has been going on for an extended period of time (i.e. 12 months or more). These problems may also be related to other mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
The inclusion of Gaming Disorder in the ICD-11 (the International Classification of Disease) has been the topic of hot debate recently, and further research is needed to better understand this issue. But if you think a young person is having problems with gaming, it's important to get help.
Tips for safe and healthy gaming
Max gave us his top tips for maintaining healthy gaming habits and staying safe on gaming sites.
1. Balance digital gaming with other activities, hobbies and interests
Spend time with friends doing offline activities, like walking, watching movies, playing team sports or playing non-digital games. Even if your common interest is online gaming, and even if you talk about games while you’re doing other things, you need to have balance! Keep a regular routine that involves going to bed at a normal time, eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise.
2. Play games with other people
Playing games within a social setting will reduce isolation and help maintain meaningful relationships with friends and peers. Games are a great way to stay connected if you have difficulty socialising and tend to spend time alone.
3. Play a range of different games
Max finds this helpful for keeping things in perspective and avoiding becoming obsessed with one particular game. He suggests playing games casually and not getting too competitive. He points out that only a tiny proportion of players will go on to become an e-sports ‘pro’, so there’s no need to spend all your time on one platform.
4. Be alert to predators and scammers
Game companies and streaming platforms are becoming increasingly aware of security and safety risks, and many run ‘bots’ through their content to ensure anything inappropriate is removed and the offending users are ‘timed out’ or blocked. This is not fool-proof, however, and players need to put in place safeguards to protect themselves. For example, only play games that are appropriate for your age. Don't share personal details with people you don't know. And avoid purchasing games or in-game currency from third parties, no matter how good the deals appear to be – stick to the official sites!
5. If something goes wrong, report it
If you suspect you’ve been scammed, or if you’ve received inappropriate or abusive material, tell a trusted adult and report it to the game’s official support site – they may be able to freeze or block the user’s account until things are resolved.
Where to go for more information about gaming for primary and high school students
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides advice for parents and schools about cyber safety for students and setting limits around screen time. They also provide advice on how to respond to cyberbullying and detailed information about specific games, apps and sites.
A national survey from R U OK? revealed that Australians spend an average of 46 hours of their weekly downtime looking at their TVs and digital devices, compared to an average of six hours engaging with family and friends.
The suicide prevention charity has also revealed that around half of Australians spend two hours or less of their weekly downtime connecting with the people who matter to them.
R U OK? Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis said the research has highlighted that we’re more intimately acquainted with our devices than the highs and lows of our families’ and friends’ lives.
“It’s a big wakeup call that we’re spending almost eight times the amount of hours looking at our screens compared to the time we spend engaging with the people who matter to us,” Rebecca said. “We all need to shift that balance and invest some of our screen time into our relationships and the people around us.”
The survey also revealed that while Australians want to spend more quality time connecting with family and friends, distance (38%); being too tired or lacking energy (28%); being busy with other activities (20%); catching up on housework (19%); or long work hours (18%) are the main obstacles preventing that outcome.
R U OK? Board Director and Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute, Professor Helen Christensen, said finding time in our busy schedules for relationships is critical.
“Connecting with people we care about is so important for maintaining good mental health. We know that strong and caring connections with friends and family provide a vital safety net to help people cope with the challenging moments in life,” Helen said. “Conversely, withdrawing from social engagement is often a sign of poor mental health and this is the time when loved ones need to stay connected, no matter how difficult it may be.”
Respondents to the R U OK? national survey reported that in a typical week they would spend the below number of hours connecting with friends, family and people who matter most to them:
- 2 hours or less - 49%
- Between 2 and 5 hours - 23%
- Between 5 and 10 hours - 17%
- Between 10 and 20 hours - 8%
- More than 20 hours - 4%
Respondents reported that in a typical day they would spend the below number of hours browsing social media, browsing the internet and watching television for personal reasons:
- Less than 5 hours - 33%
- 5 - 10 hours - 54%
- More than 10 hours - 13%
Respondents identified the below as reasons preventing them from spending more quality time with friends, family and the people who matter most to them:
Physical distance (e.g. live far away from family and friends) - 38%
- I am too tired or don't have the energy - 28%
- I spend a lot of time at other commitments either for myself or my children (e.g. sporting and leisure groups) - 20%
- I spend my evenings/weekends keeping up with household chores - 19%
- I work long hours - 18%
- My family and friends work long or anti-social hours - 15%
- A feeling that it is all too difficult - 11%
- Study commitments - 9%
- I work anti-social hours (e.g. shift work) - 9%
- Other - 5%
Make time to reconnect
As the official school R U OK? partner, Brainstorm Productions urges students at the end of each performance to remember the importance of catching up with friends, chatting on the phone with family, or visiting elderly relatives.
By setting aside quality time for those we care about, it makes it easier to sense if someone isn’t doing so well and you can then ask the question “Are you okay?”.
R U OK? Ambassador and former rugby league player Brett Finch understands the value of connecting with his family and friends offline. “It can be easy to lose contact with people who matter to us because life's hectic. Even if you can’t be there in person, pick up the phone and give someone you care about a call. It’s worth the effort. Having been through some personal battles in recent years, I know how important it is that we’ve got good mates and family to talk to,” Brett said.
"I’m so grateful that my family and mates reached out to me when I was at my lowest point. I know the difference a sense of connection and support can make. That’s why I want others to do the same for the people in their world,” he said.
Not all the comfortable with the idea of asking someone you care about if they’re OK? The R U OK? website provides advice for young people and adults on not only how to ask the question, but also on how to respond to someone’s answer.
Technology and social media is all around us and can be used to great effect, however things can easily turn and you can’t always press “undo”. Brainstorm Productions has a range of cyberbullying programs that look at the risks and impacts of the online world on the very real-life world of primary school and high school students.
Rather than conducting a standard lesson plan, Brainstorm Productions gets students engaged in the topic of cyber safety through music, storytelling, drama and conversation. This fresh approach is not only educational, but encourages students to contribute to the process resulting in a positive change in behaviour and attitudes.
Brainstorm Productions cyber safety programs are designed with a clear aim - to keep students safe online by educating them on the do’s and don’ts of using digital technology and staying true to themselves, including:
- Think before you post
- Only connect with friends
- Be kind to everyone – it’s better to have friends than enemies
- Always keep your settings private
- Report online bullies to parents and teachers – don’t stay silent
- Remember to block and ignore online bullies
- Learn and use privacy and friend-only settings
- Always report abusive content
- Only accept friend requests from people you know
- Be true to yourself and who you are
- Know the school’s policy on using social media and comply
- Don’t share your passwords
- Don’t be hurtful towards others or yourself
- Don’t stay silent if friends are being bullied online
- Don’t respond to online bullies
- Don’t share anything you wouldn’t want your parents or teachers to see
Below you will find the full range of Brainstorm Productions cyber safety programs. Please note not all programs are touring at all times. Click here to view current touring school shows.
Cyber Safety Programs for Primary School Students:
The Protectors is an emotional wellbeing resource that has been researched and developed in association with teachers and students. It offers concrete solutions children can practice to protect themselves from hurtful comments and negative behaviours they may encounter in the playground.
Clear instructions on cyber safety are delivered in a fun, memorable way. Children will be able to empathise and appreciate the devastating consequences of cyber bullying. 'The Protectors' unlocks the secrets of body language and gives 'Protector Tools' to curb aggressive behaviour.
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The Human Race
The Human Race is an anti bullying and resilience program for primary schools that reinforces positive relationships, and provides resources to help reduce the incidence of bullying at school and online. It encourages tolerance, kindness, respect and empathy.
Dunc has been bullied. No one wants to be his partner in the race. Dunc’s loyalty, honesty and tenacity are his greatest strengths but, if he is to win the physical, artistic and mental challenges in the Human Race, he will have to overcome his low self-esteem.
Deedee has lied about her age and alienated people by posting mean photos and comments on social media. She is horrified when she has to enter the race with Dunc, the most "uncool kid in the whole school".
Dunc and Deedee need to be respectful and compassionate, play by the rules and do their best to reach their potential as citizens of the world. Can they use their skills in conflict resolution and problem solving to complete the challenges?
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Sticks & Stones K/P-6
When things go wrong in Toby’s life, or he feels frightened or threatened, he gets all churned up inside. His body tells him to fight, his dad and other kids tell him to fight, even TV shows and video games tell him to fight. He’s always in trouble, and is unhappy at home and at school.
He learns to stop, breathe, put his hands in his pockets, walk away, count to ten and talk about his feelings. He learns how to stay safe at school and online.
When Toby decides to break the habit and take responsibility for his own actions he begins to develop positive relationships. He stands tall, becomes assertive and co-operates with other kids to create a circus routine, with acrobatics, unicycling and juggling.
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Saving Lil and Archie
There is pandemonium on Planet Arkon when two robots, Lil and Zig, are zapped to earth and into the lives of two 12 year olds, Bella and Archie. Bella is being bullied and Archie has no friends.
Through their encounters with these unexpected guests, Bella learns to be assertive and to 'report' and 'log off', or walk away, when her connections become negative and nasty. Archie begins to understand his emotions and the emotions of others.
Archie realises that lack of sleep and hours of screen time make him angry and unable to make positive connections with real people. In order to restore the balance, Archie learns that he must control his impulses and engage in more positive behaviours so that Lil and Zig can return to Arkon.
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The H Team
This exciting adventure story fosters teamwork, critical thinking skills, self-discipline and physical fitness, and highlights the power of the bystander.
Unhealthy competition about body shape, brand name clothes, toys and gadgets can cause division in the playground and online. Some children feel embarrassed and alienated and others use their power to tease and intimidate.
The H Team inspires this generation of children to outsmart the media, the junk food giants, the advertising gurus and the bullies to create a healthy and harmonious school community.
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The Magic Words
Zanna and Rolf learn that bullying, telling lies online, and posting hurtful comments and photos on social media can have damaging consequences. Rolf discovers that the secret to happiness is giving and receiving respect, being proud of your actions and achievements, and co-operating to reach a goal. Powerful insights indeed!
Senior students will learn the impact of peer pressure, plagiarism, fraud and telling lies. We also address tact and other positive life skills that will protect them in the future.
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Cyber Safety Programs for High School Students:
When cyber bullying is anonymous and undercover:
WHAT drives cyber bullies to send that nasty message, post that hurtful comment or embarrassing photo on Facebook or Snapchat?
WHY are some people more likely to be a target and why is it hard for victims to be assertive or resilient?
WHERE can they go if or when they are being cyber bullied?
HOW can we stop cyber bullying from happening?
A cleverly crafted narrative allows students to examine these questions AND their own behaviour.
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Sticks & Stones yrs 7-10
Two energetic young performers explore the different forms of bullying at school, in the street, at home and online.
Toby is falling into destructive patterns of aggressive behaviour. When he meets Joe, he starts to understand how these behaviours have emerged, and develops strategies for conflict resolution, anger management, assertiveness, and breaking the cycle of violence.
School yard scenarios are used to encourage students to have empathy and understanding: invading people’s personal space, homophobic and racist remarks, family violence and intimidation, in person or online, are all illegal and can have serious consequences.
This award winning show shines a spotlight on negative patterns of behaviour that can develop through inappropriate modeling from peers, family members, TV and video games. It examines the link between hormones, the fight/flight response, aggression and violence.
The hard hitting narrative is punctuated with circus skills to demonstrate co-operation and strategies for improving self-control through breath, focus and channelling energy into positive pursuits.
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When bullying and revenge are used to wield power, Jack and Ella realise they must create an ethical roadmap for the internet. When people post words or images, how will they be received? What will be the consequences?
The Flipside will change student's perspectives on what's humorous, toxic, private, humiliating, informative, safe or appropriate. The performance provides strategies for positive, ethical communication online.
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The Hurting Game
Samantha’s group spread rumours and alienate her. She becomes obsessed with body image and constantly compares herself with other girls in the media, the playground and on social media.
Desperate to fit in, Jimmy succumbs to peer pressure and becomes the tough guy harassing and bullying other students with homophobic remarks, deliberately failing maths, binge drinking and playing the fool.
They slowly begin to realise that their interactions on social media can affect their mental health and emotional wellbeing, and could have lifelong implications.
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Ruby loses her moral compass on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and MSN. She is instantly banished to "Cyberia". Tim is in self-imposed exile playing online games.
When they indulge in cyber bullying and anti-social behaviour it creates havoc in the real world.
They suddenly realise they can't just press the "undo" button to retrieve their relationships, reputation, dignity and most of all their privacy.
In consultation with IT, education and mental health experts, our creative team have woven together true stories of Gen Y/Z's internet experiences. It poses questions about how the digital age is affecting our brains, our humanity and our future.
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Theatre as an effective cyber safety resource
Theatre in education is a unique tool for bringing the digital world to life. Through theatre, we have the ability to create a world that reflects the online space students inhabit daily, but may not think of as a ‘real’ space. Theatre has the potential to use creative theatrical devices and magic realism to bring the online space to life in an engaging way.
When watching live theatre, high school students witness, and empathise with relatable and credible characters who are faced with choices. Students see the consequence of making certain choices. The intensity of the relationship between audience and characters is heightened by the fact that actors are real people, and the action is live. There is also interaction between the audience and actors throughout the shows.
The origin of the ancient art form theatre first appears in the 3rd century BC and was used in festivals that honoured the Greek god Dionysus. Digital citizenship, on the other hand, was only established during the 1990's technology boom, as a way to help structure what was considered appropriate and inappropriate use of technology.
So, how is a 2,000 year old ancient art form helping students connect more effectively using today’s technology? Let’s have a look at five reasons why:
1.) Let’s face facts
Australia Council’s most recent survey uncovered that ‘9 in 10 Australians think The Arts are an important part of education’ and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) agrees that drama is a powerful tool to engage and motivate students and can improve an individual’s sense of purpose and identity, positively changing the direction of student’s lives.
In addition, Australia’s largest research project based around the benefits of theatre in education was led by the University of South Australia and demonstrated just how powerful performance art can be for students in becoming more critically aware and developing a deeper understanding of their world and their role within it.
For students to be good digital citizens, they need all these skills to behave safely and responsibly online.
2.) Building positive relationships
Theatre has been in existence for thousands of years and has played an important role in helping humanity understand their emotions, what it means to be a part of the human race as well as providing solutions to life’s dilemmas. Storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful techniques we have to communicate and according to Scientific American, we are hardwired to love stories from birth.
Theatre and storytelling helps students understand the human condition, how to express themselves more effectively and can be one of the most important educational tools for helping young people understand empathy, compassion and building positive relationships both online and offline. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, ‘The Arts are the window to the soul’.
3.) Helping students succeed
There is literally a mountain of research that demonstrates that students who participate in The Arts will perform better academically. Theatre is vital not only to students’ grades, but also to their success at developing and being good digital citizens. Theatre helps teach us about ourselves and others. It helps students to see how their behaviour online affects others and what changes they can make to improve their lives.
The former Australian Cultural Ministers Council was quite clear when they said that The Arts play a major role in helping to develop the skills needed for the next generation:
“An education rich in creative arts maximises opportunities for learners to engage with innovative thinkers and leaders, and to experience the arts both as audience members and as artists. Such an education is vital to students’ success as individuals and as members of society, emphasising not only creativity and imagination, but also the values of cultural understanding and social harmony that the arts can engender.”
4.) Shared learning
Rather than learning about digital citizenship through individual modules, text books or online, theatre is a great way to bring students together in a shared, informal learning experience.
The consequences of online issues such as cyberbullying, how to stay safe, keeping personal information private, reporting cyberbullying, how to balance online time, online gaming and chatting, digital reputation, sexting, offensive online behaviour, trolling and the serious risks of unwanted contact with strangers; all come alive right before the students eyes. They can see, but also more importantly feel, how these actions can have significant impacts.
Theatre reminds students that people, not technology, is at the centre of positive digital citizenship.
5.) Taking on the challenge
Cyber safety and the effects of cyberbullying can touch anyone. These issues do not reside with any given economic, social or cultural background. Theatre is an educational tool that can reach out and captivate ALL students. It can provide ways of engaging with students who are otherwise resistant, can challenge students to transform damaging online behaviour and can help students understand how and where to get help.
Drama reflects student’s real-life experiences and can be a catalyst for not only changing any negative or risky online behaviours, but also empowering students to start a dialogue with each other about what is acceptable online.
Using drama can have a significant effect on student’s digital behaviour, because it provides the opportunity for students to understand other people’s perspectives and delivers real-life solutions to online issues.
While cyber safety for young people is a very serious topic, Brainstorm Productions uses a methodology that addresses the big issues while still making students feel understood by using inspiring stories, humour and drama; which appeals to student’s emotions and makes the learning experience highly engaging and memorable.
Here are a few testimonials from both teachers and students:
"This incursion delivered internet safety messages in a fun, interactive way, opposed to a dry lecture and slide show. Role play and performance was very relevant to students as they learn to be nice people, as well as being nice online. Discussion time at the end was great to emphasise cyber safety aspects. Highly recommended - 10/10." Bandiana Primary School, Yrs P-6, The Magic Words
“Enthralled!!Totally engaged!!!!Loved the actions and interaction! Kids were switched on, interested and entertained! Age appropriate relatable topics and messages: internet safety, screen time, friendship, bullying. Excellent blend of current lexicon with valued concepts. 10/10” Baden Powell College, Saving Lil and Archie
“Riveting!! Zappy!! Slick!! Relevant, realistic, fantastic, interesting, factual information to use in everyday life. Messages clearly articulated, students joined in the song and answers in the Q & A showed they had taken in the information about healthy eating, sleep, screen time, positive relationships, positive mindsets, bullying and caring. Active, energetic, fun, worthwhile and value for money. Actors were amazing and the content was fantastic! Brilliant! Couldn’t fault it!!” Grange Primary School, The H Team
“Highly energetic, engaging, articulate! Multiple strategies to deal with bullying. Loved the song and great range of level-appropriate lesson plans and activities. Actions with verbal cues reinforced the strategies about cyber bullying and cyber safety - 'Tell, Block, Delete'. Friendly professional actors. Very good product. I would highly recommend to other schools.10/10” McAuley Catholic College, The Protectors
“Excellent! Successfully addressed a number of current issues faced by all ages with social media, photos posted, trust and the involvement of police in cases of cyber bullying. Highly recommended 10/10.” St Benedict’s College Brisbane, Cyberia
"I enjoyed the show. It told me to be safe online and never give away personal information. They also told us not to bully or fight, and to always take a deep breath. I really liked their acting, it was really funny. I wish we have it every year!" Primary school student, Sticks and Stones K-6
"I learned that fighting is never the answer, and if someone is bullying you then take a deep breath and put your hands in your pockets and walk away. I learnt to be safe on online games and to ask your parents or have supervision. And I learnt how to control anger." Primary school student, Sticks and Stones K-6
"The complex issues surrounding the misuse of technology and the damage caused by cyberbullying were all brought to life through this play. The play provided guidelines around cyberbullying, the effects of too much screen time, internet safety, and protecting our online reputation. We look forward to welcoming [Brainstorm] back again." Yr 9 students, Marist College Eastwood, Cyberia
“Loved this!......I got it!...That was great!.....Fabulous actions....clever moves..... It’s happened to me.....Can we get them again?” Students, St Ignatius, The Hurting Game
“Great to have a story rather than ‘do this’ or ‘do that’...... seeing a performance makes it easy to understand...... It was really ‘moving’..... the music interpretation was awesome....the voiceovers were really effective....great characters...bullying effects other people’s lives....fabulous play.....very entertaining.....looking forward to their next one.....fast changes were amazing.... liked the way they stayed in character and focussed..... story line was very appropriate....good job....helps us understand what bullying really is and how it affects people.....100/10...yes that's right. 100/10.” Students, Ogilvie High School, Verbal Combat
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed: Lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467. If you or someone you know requires immediate assistance, please call Emergency Services (000) or Lifeline (13 11 14). Other supports can be found at www.ruok.org.au/findhelp.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Under no circumstances will Brainstorm Productions or its employees be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on information obtained from this site. It is your responsibility to evaluate any content provided and seek professional advice as appropriate. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.