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Online safety for kids in 2022: What the experts want you to know

Keeping kids safe online in 2022: What the experts want you to know

Online safety for kids in 2022: What the experts want you to know

With technology constantly evolving, new social media apps launching and new online trends emerging, it can be overwhelming as a parent or educator to keep up! That’s why I called upon six leading Australian cyber safety educators to share their insights about online safety as we enter the second half of the year. Each have been recognised as a Trusted eSafety Provider, endorsed by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and work closely with children, parents and educators.

I asked each of them the same two questions –

What has been a stand-out risk or trend facing children online this year?


What is your advice to parents and/or educators for keeping kids safe online?

Thank you to Kayelene Kerr, Paul Litherland, Martin McGauran, Trent Ray, Leonie Smith and Patrick Thomas for taking the time to share your extensive knowledge! Take a read of their responses below (presented alphabetically) -


Kayelene Kerr (eSafe Kids)

What has been an online safety risk for kids that has stood out to you this year? 

A stand-out risk this year has been online grooming. Online grooming is understood as when a person makes online contact with a child/young person with the intention of establishing a relationship to enable their sexual abuse and exploitation. The three most common intentions of online grooming that I’ve observed over the last 25 years are to:

  • Obtain child sexual abuse material/child exploitation material.
  • Meet a child in an offline environment (the real world).
  • Extort the child for monetary gain. This is often referred to as sextortion.

In a recent Australian study only 3% of parents believed online grooming was a risk to children. Paradoxically, 1 in 3 Australian children have reported unwanted contact by a stranger.

What is your advice to parents and/or educators for keeping kids cyber safe? 

Parental participation, supervision, education and conversation is vital and can reduce the opportunity for an offence to be committed and increase the risk of detection if an offence has been committed.

 If you learn that your child is in an unsafe situation or has made a poor decision online, you may feel overwhelmed, upset, angry, frustrated, disappointed or even scared. If you have the opportunity, take some time to calm yourself first. If this is not possible, ensure your child knows that you love them, there is nothing that will ever change how much you love them and that you will always support them.

About Kayelene 

Kayelene Kerr is recognised as one of Western Australia’s most experienced specialist providers of Protective Behaviours, Body Safety, Cyber Safety, Digital Wellness and Pornography education workshops. Kayelene is passionate about the prevention of child abuse and sexual exploitation, drawing on over 24 years experience of study and law enforcement, investigating sexual crimes, including technology facilitated crimes. Kayelene delivers engaging and sought-after prevention education workshops to educate, equip and empower children and young people, and to help support parents, carers, educators and other professionals. Kayelene believes protecting children from harm is a shared responsibility and everyone can play a role in the care, safety and protection of children. Kayelene aims to inspire the trusted adults in children’s lives to tackle sometimes challenging topics.

Connect with Kayelene - website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube


Paul Litherland (Surf Online Safe)

What has been an online safety risk for kids that has stood out to you this year? 

Over the past 18-months, I have seen a massive rise in the number of children under the age of 15 being scammed or losing money through gaming environments. 58% of children aged 10 to 13 are making regular purchases though online gaming environments with pre-paid gaming cards, whilst 27% of them also have permitted access to a parents’ credit card. Many parents are unaware their kids are attempting to purchase online currencies such as Robux and V-Bucks, only to have money stolen because the sites being used are fake or misleading. Many kids will make purchases and simply tell parents they have spent money and will not tell them they did not get what they paid for, because the site was a scam.

Another standout issue I am dealing with for 16-year old’s and under is Sextortion! Primarily, the victims are young boys. These boys are interacting with females on sites such as Omegle and having general chats. Those chats then start to turn sexual and before you know it, both users have got their clothes off and are engaging in sexual interaction. The video of the boy masturbating is then captured and played back to him! The demand for money is made or the video will be released to family and friends online. A case I dealt with last year, the boy was 15 and interacting with a girl he thought was 16 from Brazil. She was in fact a 23-year-old from the Philippines. She was part of a syndicate. He gave over his parents’ credit card number and they lost $500.00! 

The reason this trend is increasing is simple. Adults who get caught out in this way will report! In fact, 72 to 80% of adult victims will report to the police. However, with juvenile males, this statistic drops to only 17%. As such, our scammers have identified this trend and have started targeting teenage boys. This is quite concerning.

What is your advice to parents and/or educators for keeping kids cyber safe? 

My main advice for adults addressing issues in the online world is to continue to invite conversations from their kids at home and in the classroom! As adults, we are often on the back foot regarding current trends in gaming and social media, so it is important that adults stay on top of those issues. Having open discussions around what kids are using online and the matters they are dealing with within their online environments will help identify risk.

About Paul

For close to 20 years, Paul has been working at the coalface of online crime. Since 2008, he has worked specifically with juvenile victims and their families, and has used those experiences to develop highly informative presentations regarding the risks of the online world. Since leaving the Western Australia Police in 2014, Paul has grown to become one of the nations most recognised and highly awarded educators in the fields of Cyber Safety and Internet Awareness, culminating in him being named the 2022 WA Australian of the Year. Today, Paul works with over 850 schools and organisations across the country, with the demand for his services continuing to rise. He has been presenting at many of his schools for 10 years and has grown to become a very respected and valued member of those school communities.

Connect with Paul - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, website 


Martin McGauran (Inform & Empower)

What has been an online safety risk for kids that has stood out to you this year? 

One big issue in 2022 that we have seen impact many young people, is the exposure to live streamed content on social media. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was very quickly being streamed directly on TikTok and appearing in the "For You" feed of almost every user. This highlights the challenges of allowing children, under 13 particularly, access to platforms such as TikTok. Unfortunately, it is so much more than just funny dance videos!

What is your advice to parents and/or educators for keeping kids cyber safe? 

An analogy I often use is that preparing our young people to be on social media is very much like preparing them to drive on the roads. We don't just hand our kids car keys at age 18 and hope for the best! Just like we co-drive (L Plates) and educate them about road rules, etiquette, how to navigate tricky conditions...we must do the same when it comes to social media. So, we encourage parents to think about how they are preparing their young person to be on social media (Hint: it involves lots and lots of open conversations!) 

About Martin

Martin is a primary school teacher and educational consultant with over 12 years experience in schools. He is a qualified teacher, holds a Masters of Education (ICT & Digital Learning) as well as being a Google for Education Certified Trainer and Innovator. In 2018 he co-founded Tech In Edu Magazine which is a publication that supports effective and innovative teaching and learning with technology. 

Connect with Martin: website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn


Trent Ray (The Cyber Safety Project)

What has been an online safety risk for kids that has stood out to you this year? 

Anecdotally, we are hearing of three trends across primary school that we partner with. We believe these align with 84% social networkers set up with their first account before age 12 with limited explicit online safety education and social skill development. The three trends:

  1. Creating ‘fakes’ (fake social media profiles using someone else’s photo/personal details) and pretending to be them or harassing other peers.
  2. Toxic communication within group chats that include negativity/bullying and links to harmful content.
  3. Only 1 in 3 young people will turn to a trusted adult when things go wrong online.

What is your advice to parents and/or educators for keeping kids cyber safe? 

  1. Discuss the value of integrity and the perspective of others who may see our online communication.
  2. Provide opportunities to discuss or role play a range of digital dilemmas, challenges or scenarios with opportunities to reflect on ethical behaviours and decision making.
  3. Start chatting about technology to ensure the young people in your care know you understand the importance of technology
  4. Promote the steps to take when things go wrong such as an explicit support crew of trusted adults, know about and 

The Cyber Safety Project recently released the Digital Habits Survey Report which surveyed 3,200 secondary students. It has highlighted some key trends and challenges for young people, as well as more advice in response to these findings.

About Trent

Trent has over 15 years experience working as a primary/secondary school teacher and leader in Australian Schools. More recently, Trent’s roles include Co-Founder of the Cyber Safety Project, Director of Collective Education Australia and working in partnership with the Education team at Microsoft Australia.

Connect with Trent - websiteTwitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram


Leonie Smith (Digital Families Counselling)

What has been an online safety risk for kids that has stood out to you this year? 

A stand-out risk this year is that children are more online than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning, and the risks for them has exacerbated according to the research from the eSafety Commissioner’s Office. For example, children’s exposure to bullying and abuse has increased by 300%. Research also shows that while children have increased their communication with parents about upsetting experiences online, sadly many parents are not really listening to their concerns.

Children’s use of online gaming and TikTok have both increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of communicating and engaging with their communities. However, some of these games are causing children to engage with strangers online and incidents of exposure to negative behaviour and explicit adult content has also accelerated. The disconnect between parents, carers and young people means that young people are not getting the help they need. Young people might be accessing sites that are not suitable and safe for them. Further, if they are not getting tangible results by reporting harm to parents it can mean they will stop reporting altogether and experience more harm. 

What is your advice to parents and/or educators for keeping kids cyber safe? 

My advice is to focus on supporting the relationships between young people and their parents and carers. Engaged, informed parents who are involved with their children’s digital lives help them use technology with more awareness of safety and health. 

With increased screen time and increased access to harmful content online since the COVID-19 pandemic, children need more than ever for engaged parents and carers to be with them online and to support heathy use of technology. Children left to their own devices on screens with little parental involvement are in danger of wandering into the dark corners the internet.

About Leonie:

Leonie Smith is a Family Counsellor who has been working with parents and carers since 2010 via The Cyber Safety Lady program and one-on-one parent coaching, helping them find workable solutions for keeping their families safer and happier online. She has a Diploma in Counselling from The Northern Beaches & Mosman College. Leonie is now a full-time family counsellor with her private practice “Digital Families Counselling” based in Sydney, Australia. She works fully online with clients across Australia.

Connect with Leonie - website, Facebook


Patrick Thomas (ySafe)

What has been an online safety risk for kids that has stood out to you this year? 

Since the start of the pandemic, eSafety complaints have skyrocketed a massive 341%. It is safe to say there are significant risks that many, if not all, of our young people are facing at the moment. 

We have noticed an increase in Cyber Ostracism, which is the act of being excluded in a virtual or online environment, particularly in messaging apps and content creation. There is also a growing number of primary-aged students becoming more familiar with TikTok trends, which suggests that they are engaging frequently with the platform. More specifically, we have noticed school wellbeing staff reporting an influx in impersonation accounts which are more frequently being used for cyberbullying across all platforms.

What is your advice to parents and/or educators for keeping kids cyber safe? 

Let me just start by saying “You can do it!”

Parents and educators are the top category of trusted adults that students speak about in all of the sessions we present. As an educator myself, I realise that this trust can be fluid especially as kids grow older and begin socialising in the online world. To maintain that trust, keep adequate supervision, and ultimately assist a child in the management of their online safety. All topics need to be frequently and openly discussed - communication is key. 

 Parents, start with a Friday night games night. No, not board games! Online games. Play their games, have fun where they have fun, and through your covert actions you might stumble across a few things worth discussing at a later stage. 

Teachers, ask your students to teach you the latest TikTok dance trend and make sure you get it horribly wrong (without being filmed). 

In all seriousness, do what you can to break down the walls of uncertainty or awkwardness, so that the serious discussions can happen more openly. Now is the time for parents and educators to regain control, and support our young people in learning how to self-regulate and find a healthy balance - empowering digital wellness. 

About Patrick

Patrick is the State Education Manager (WA) at ySafe - Australia’s leading Cyber Safety Educators & Experts. With a Computer Science Degree and extensive experience in technology integration within school environments, Patrick gained his Graduate Diploma in teaching and worked as a high school teacher before joining the ySafe team. 

“Having worked in both IT and teaching environments, I understand how there are times when the online safety realm is daunting and scary - for school staff, parents and young people alike. I love technology and the wonderful benefits it gives us and am confident that when we clearly understand the associated risks and know where to find support when we need it, we will create efficient systems to enhance the confidence of our young people.”

Connect with Patrick - website, email, LinkedIn


It's time to have a conversation with your kids!

Interestingly, while each of the cyber safety educators above have identified different online risks, they are united in their advice - Regular communication with children is essential for keeping them cyber safe. We need to normalise talking about digital technologies, social media and online gaming. That’s where the idea for The Tweeting Galah children’s cyber safety book series came from (way back in 2017!) – Four books, ten short stories - each exploring a different online safety theme and each with reflection questions at the end to guide discussion.

The Tweeting Galah books are available for free shipping Australia-wide and eBook versions are also available - have a browse now!

(Plus, free international shipping on this special book pack).  


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