Tech & media intelligence-gathering in Sydney

By Anne Collier

“Intelligence” is the word that has come to mind most frequently as I’ve participated in conversation after conversation with Australians about kids in digital media over the past 10 days. Here’s just a sampler of examples:

  • “Cybersafety education saturation”: A government is really “hearing” young citizens in Australia. Rosalie O’Neale of the Australian Communications & Media Authority reported that, in very recent qualitative research, ACMA heard older teens saying they’d maxed out on online-safety as we know it (the kind of messaging that kids hear over and over and doesn’t seem to change behavior, I heard a number of people here say). “One contributing factor is the degree of repetition,” Rosalie told me. “They don’t feel that their knowledge is being furthered, or that they are being challenged to think and apply the messages to what they are doing…. They’re looking for innovation, immediacy and personal relevance. This is a recommendation that we’re taking very seriously.” [Last week I wrote about the Australian government’s Youth Advisory Group.]
  • Drawing “The Line”: information, advice, and support on multiple issues for Australian youth on the Web, Facebook, and phones. The $17 million, four-year campaign is basically a primary prevention project of the Australian government to address violence against women but includes support for everything from bullying and cyberbullying to mental health issues and suicidal crisis. It has a forum, lots of support from recording artists, and a two-hour weekly anonymous forum where participanta trained counselor.
  • Legal advice for youth. Australia’s National Children’s & Youth Law Center launched LawStuff, providing information and advice to youth on their legal rights and laws concerning issues of interest to them, online and offline. If young people don’t find the information they need in the site, they can send “lawmail” to get more help or info via email (they get at least a question a day about Net- and tech-related issues). “We are underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that victims’ and offenders’ rights are preserved,” said Kelly Tallon of the Law Center.
  • A unique focus on bystanders. The Australian Human Rights Commission recently made the addressing of violence, harassment and bullying “one of its priority themes, focusing on bystanders.” So it developed the BackMeUp video contest that invited 13-to-17-year-old Australians to create and enter their two-minute videos about “backing someone up who has been cyberbullied” (here are the very creative winning videos, and here‘s Australian MTV VJ Ruby Rose kicking the contest off). [I believe legal and human rights are the right contexts for many so-called online safety issues and hope to see uptake of this approach worldwide.]
  • The meaning and power of respect. The University of South Australia and the Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre in Melbourne are working on a project that makes youth research partners and “co-generators of ideas” for research of highly participatory design. They’re right now looking at the notion of respect for self and others as a safeguard in people’s interactions online.
  • Embracing the whole school community. The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, a Melbourne-based national nonprofit organization, takes a “culture-change approach” in bringing its eSmart program to more than 1,000 schools in Australia. The aim is to turn whole school communities into cultures of respect and care, and now eSmart is being introduced in public libraries, which – as in the US – are hubs of connectivity and digital media for people who don’t have access at home.
  • Students as teachers. CyberSafeKids, a Melbourne-based education consultancy that works with schools throughout the Asia-Pacific region and helped to develop the Generation Safe program of iKeepSafe in the US <>, puts strong emphasis student participation and student peer-to-peer mentoring in its work with schools.
  • Social financial literacy. ASIC (“Australia’s SEC,” if you will) has teamed up with Australian kids’ site Skooville to foster financial literacy in kids under 13 with the development of MoneySmart Town.” Kids can choose a career, try out and change jobs, get job training, create a budget, learn what credit means, walk to work (to up their happiness quotient), etc.

Again, that’s just a smattering of the intelligent work being done by and for young people in Australia. Next: some data on young people’s tech ad media use in this country.

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