Disturbing acts of sexualised behaviour among young children are becoming more frequent in schools as mobile devices result in children being exposed to pornography, says cyber safety expert Susan McLean.
An investigation is underway in Australia after two seven-year-old boys sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl at a primary school last year after viewing porn on a mobile phone on the school grounds. “There were students who had allegedly viewed on an electronic device some material which is understood to be of some explicit sexual nature,” Lutheran Education Australia’s state executive director, John Proeve, said. “The students then moved from a space where they had viewed that to the playground and then what they had viewed brought about actions by the students which obviously had been influenced by what they had seen. We know the behaviour is not consistent with what we would call normal playground behaviour.”
The prevalence of internet-connected mobile devices and the ready accessibility of porn via a simple Google search has led to a rise in child-on-child sexual assaults across all education sectors and demographics as children re-enact in playgrounds and classrooms what they see online.
Increasingly younger children have access to smartphones with 3G/4G data, enabling them to bypass default school internet filtering altogether. Cyber safety expert John Parsons stated recently in a Cyber Safety Breakfast event that he can walk into any primary school and find young children who are playing R18 games such as Grand Theft Auto, with the consequence of being exposed to sexualised language and themes from a young age.
Fence at the top of the cliff
Technology can be a powerful enabler for learning, but age-appropriate boundaries are necessary to keep children safe online.
The mobility of technology provides a new paradigm for schools, and smartphones are no longer the 'responsibility' alone of the parent or caregiver. Young children are increasingly exposed to a variety of online environments that, quite simply, are inappropriate. Schools are utilising scarce resources to deal with a range of issues related to the misuse of technology on personal devices.
Family Zone's Partner School Program supports schools to meet their duty of care, ensuring ALL mobile devices, including devices off-network, comply with school internet use policies in school time. Our School Relationship Team help bring parents on board, providing a wholistic cyber safety ecosystem.
If you would like more information on how this program could work for your school community, get in touch with our team.