Keeping Children Safe Online

Child Protection Sunday 2020

With the global pandemic we are spending more time at home and more time online.  The internet has enabled us to work, learn, shop, socialise and be entertained whilst remaining at home and complying with COVID restrictions around physical distancing.  With greater reliance on our devices and the internet, cyber safety, especially for children, is more important than ever.  There are good ways for children to use devices to learn and play, but there are also risks.  Parents need to be more vigilant than ever to keep their children safe online.

It is not possible for parents to keep an eye on their child’s online activities every second of the day.  The key is to talk with children about online safety issues and to build an open and trusting relationship around technology.  Parents assist children to build good habits and develop digital intelligence – social, emotional and practical skills to empower them to make good choices when online.  There are online safety issues like managing time online, using parental controls on devices, responding to inappropriate content, cyber-bullying and contact with strangers.  Parents also need to be alert to signs of distress and if needed, report harmful content.  For strategies and advice for both parents and children about keeping safe online, visit the Australian Government eSafety Commissioner website.

This weekend marks Child Protection Sunday for the Catholic Church in Australia which coincides with the end of National Child Protection Week.  The day acknowledges the damage caused by the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church.  We are invited as a Church community to pray for those who have been abused and recommit to the support of survivors and to practices that create and maintain a safe environment for all people, especially children and vulnerable adults.

Work continues across the Parishes of Camberwell, Balwyn and Deepdene and Surrey Hills Wattle Park to implement and improve policies and practices for child safety, with a strong commitment to the care, wellbeing and protection of children, young people and people at risk in our community.  Here is a snapshot:

  • Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parish established a Safeguarding Committee at the beginning of the year.  The committee has met three times and approved an updated Child Safety Policy.  Priorities have been identified, including developing a Code of Conduct declaration for all parishioners involved in ministry and undertaking a risk assessment within the parish to assist with future planning.
  • Safeguarding continues to be a priority of the Camberwell, Deepdene and Balwyn Parish Council and is an agenda item at monthly meetings.  The terms of reference for establishing a Safeguarding Committee will be approved by the Council at the next meeting.
  • All parishioners participating in ministry continue to demonstrate commitment to child safety in completion of compliance documentation such as Working with Children Checks and National Police Checks.
  • Parish staff attended workshops on safeguarding earlier in the year presented by the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

As we look forward to returning to our Churches and face to face contact, child safety continues to be a priority across our parishes. Child Protection Sunday serves as a reminder that the little things we do every day can help to create safer environments for our children.

 

By Kirsten Italiano and Tricia Norman
Coronavirus School Community

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