Update, 10 September 2020

In this update:

At the click of a mouse – Resources for parents in relation to social media.
Change to public holiday schedule– Friday 23 October 2020.
Free webinars– designed to support parents, carers and families.
Student performance – featuring Year 6 student and Chapel Chorister, George.

At the click of a mouse

At the click of a mouse, from any place at any time, we enjoy the benefits that the internet provides. We enjoy the enormous opportunity to do our work, access information, solve problems, find news, chat to friends, shop, search the family ancestry, read stories, learn and help us respond to COVID-19.

However, also at the click of a mouse, sometimes behind your children’s closed bedroom door, access can be gained to their personal details and bank accounts (if they have them). They can be exposed to X rated pornography, computer viruses, groomers, hoaxes, scams, nasty bullying from trolls, extremist group rants and vile videos.

This week the School became aware of a shocking video clip which, we understand, shows a man committing suicide. The clip has been accessed in some homes outside of the School’s network. Originally uploaded to TikTok last week, the clip is now on Instagram, Facebook and various other social media. It has been hidden in innocent-looking content that will appeal to young people such as cat videos. It is possible the video will appear on TikTok’s For You page, making it hard to avoid.

The thumbnail image of which you need to be aware of is that of a bearded man with glasses, sitting at a desk and talking on the phone. This will not be the first or last such video, meaning even with the best of intentions, no social media company will guarantee control over what is posted.

We advise you to monitor your children’s social media use and check in with them. Some may be aware of the clip. We recommend you do not ask your child if they have seen it or they may actively seek it. Ask your child about their world in general terms. If they come to you saying they have viewed this or any other graphic video, the following advice may be helpful:

  • Remain calm, supportive and assure them they can turn to you for help. Young people will often remember the immediate response from an adult.
  • Congratulate your child if they have voluntarily brought the matter to your notice. You may welcome a discussion about what they have seen. Listen and do not assign blame about how they came across the clip. There is no need for you to view the distressing video.
  • Offer comfort and support and try to normalise the situation “This is most confronting, so it is understandable you may be upset.” “Please delete and do not pass the clip on as this would be distressing for others”.
  • Report inappropriate content to the social media platform they’ve seen it on, or to eSafety
  • Don’t overreact by removing the phone or electronic device on which the video was seen.
  • You may seek help by contacting:

Suicide Call back Service  1300 659 467
Beyond Blue  1300 224 636
– Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline  1800 551 800
– Any of the School’s counsellors

Melbourne Grammar School’s commitment

We do everything we can to provide the right type and amount of information technology to connect, educate and protect our students. We have network filter devices to screen out access to social media, viruses and undesirable material on the internet when accessed through the School’s network. We have a strong ICT policy which students have to agree to adhere to if they are to access our network. We run citizenship programs and invite guest speakers to talk about responsible cyber-citizenship.  Above all, we try to educate our students to become responsible citizens, where strong ethical values must be exercised, both on-line and off-line.

We do thorough reference checks and Working with Children checks for all of our staff. Our staff are given training. They understand their responsibilities to uphold the School’s values, which includes adherence to the ICT policy. We have a zero tolerance approach to significant staff breaches of this policy, leading to instant dismissal and reporting to the police.

When we discover a student has engaged in seriously inappropriate ICT behaviour that poses a significant risk to them and to others, we inform them and their parents. This can be embarrassing, but we work with the student and the parents to provide a combination of education, support, restitution and discipline. We do this because we care. We care about our students’ wellbeing and also their future reputations, which can take years to build but can be trashed in just a few minutes of inappropriate on-line activity early in their lives.

We remind them no file is permanently deleted and, once sent even to just one person, can go viral. We tell them that their future employers and employees will look at everything, not just what they are proud of. None of us want to see them not get the job they deserve, rubbish their relationships or end up in court or jail because of naïve online behaviour. If in doubt, we ask them to apply ‘The Grandmother Rule’: Is that something you would like your grandmother to see or do?’

What parents can do

We ask parents to play a role too. When the School becomes aware of poor ICT behaviour, in almost all cases, the inappropriate behaviour occurred in the home, has consequences for many others and the School tries to manage the fallout. This is not easy, but we try to work with the students and their parents to resolve the situation and provide support.  As a parent, you are increasing the risks for your sons and daughters if:-

  • they have unlimited access to your Wi-Fi network
  • you allow your son or daughter to access social media (including, but not limited to, Facebook, WhatsApp and TikTok) if they are aged under 13
  • they are allowed to use their computer in their bedroom, out of sight from you. All devices should be charged overnight in a central docking station that is not a bedroom
  • you have no controls in place to filter the internet access
  • you are not able to look at your children’s online activity
  • they and you cannot discuss any problems they have experienced online.  Open communication is the key.

Upholding sensible ICT practices is similar to wearing seat belts, eating the right foods, insisting on good hygiene practices and managing teenage parties. Exercising these parent responsibilities is not always easy, and I know most parents do the best they can.

The most successful students are usually those who have been encouraged in the right ways and display habits that have been provided by the strong leadership of good, consistent parenting and schooling. 

If you would like further support in managing your child’s ICT use, please do not hesitate to contact the Head of eLearning at each campus, or any of our teachers or counsellors. Our counsellors and libraries have useful resources for parents. You may also find the information about cyber safety resources provided by the School earlier this year helpful. It is available here.

Melbourne Grammar will continue to encourage the appropriate use of ICT. Our ICT curriculum continues to evolve and so it must. We must ensure all of us, and particularly our children, have the necessary values, confidence and information technology skills. We want all of them to be flourishing and responsible people, both on-line and off-line, in an increasingly difficult global digital environment, job market and society.

Change to public holiday schedule

As you may be aware, the Victorian Government recently changed the AFL Grand Final public holiday originally scheduled for Friday 25 September 2020 (during the School holidays) to become Thank You Day on Friday 23 October 2020. Accordingly, no classes will be held on that day.

A full set of 2020 and 2021 Term Dates is available here.

Free Webinars

The Parents Website is an initiative of Independent Schools Victoria. Recordings of webinars designed to support parents, carers and families are available on the Website here, including the latest webinar: Thrivers, not just survivors: helping our kids emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient.

Student Performance

Earlier this week ABC TV’s 7.30 program featured a wonderful performance by Year 6 student and Chapel Chorister, George. His beautiful rendition of Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air accompanied images from across Melbourne and Victoria. For those who have not already seen it, you can view the performance here. Well done George.

Kind regards

Philip Grutzner