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Social Media and Cyber Safety - A Message from Deputy Principal - Students

During this week’s secondary assembly students had the opportunity to listen to our adopt-a-cop Senior Sergeant Katrina Williams speak about her role and some topics relevant to adolescence and being a Girls Grammar student. Following assembly, students in years 7, 8, 9 and 10 remained for a further presentation on mobile phones, bullying and a Q&A session with Senior Sergeant Williams. Throughout her talk, Senior Sergeant Williams spoke about the importance of safe mobile phone use, sending and receiving inappropriate images and text message and the importance of protecting your mobile phone number. She gave advice to the girls on steps to take if they receive an insulting message or image and spoke about the danger of misinterpretation when communicating via social media because at times, we may not truly understand the intention of a message. Senior Sergeant Williams drew the girls’ attention to Section 474.17 of the criminal code which states the use of a carriage service to menace, harass or threaten another person and that breaching this can result in a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.

The intention of this information session wasn’t to scare the girls, but to provide them with the knowledge to help them make safe and responsible choices. We all know that social media platforms are prevalent in today’s society but their effects on the health and education of young girls are being experienced worldwide. Statistics show that 97% of 13 to 17 year olds use a social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp and Twitter (to name a few). There are many positives about these. Social media allows people to create online identities, communicate with others and build social networks. These networks can provide valuable support especially for adolescents who may experience difficulties due to disability or chronic illness. Other benefits of social media include the ability for people to connect with others around the world, providing interactions across geographic barriers. It allows individuals to reconnect with classmates, friends and family members and allows people to share their interests and hobbies.

Unfortunately like many things when misused, these benefits can very quickly become the opposite, having drastically negative effects on adolescents’ mental health and wellbeing. Researchers who have studied data on more than 10,000 adolescents over a three year period have found that teenage girls who frequently use social media are at a particular risk of mental health issues. A recent study by researchers at the University College London found that social media’s effects on teenage girls is driven by three primary factors. The first is inadequate sleep due to staying up late and scrolling through social media feeds. The second is exposure to cyberbullying through harmful, fake or private content being posted on social media. The third factor is a lack of physical activity due to sitting for long periods of time scrolling social media and missing the beneficial impact of exercise on mental health.

Further research has shown that in girls, nearly 60% of the impact on psychological distress is accounted for by the effects of social media on disrupted sleep and greater exposure to cyber bullying. In comparison, for boys in the same age cohort, disruptions to sleep and cyber bullying as a result of social media use have a 12% effect on psychological distress.

Senior Sergeant Williams encouraged the girls to think about a ‘Culture of Courage’ rather than a ‘Culture of Criticism’. Discussions, questions and answers from the girls identified this culture of courage as being brave with what you say and do, doing what’s right even if it may not be what others in a group are doing, supporting others to make sure they feel safe, speaking up if you see or hear someone treating another person badly.

A main take away from Senior Sergeant William’s presentation was the point that prevention is better than cure. Students were strongly encouraged to protect their phone number and be very careful about who they share it with. There are many online articles and websites that you can access on social media and cyber safety. For further information and tips on social media safety, visit the Kids Help Line parent page at Social media and safety | What can parents do? | Kids Helpline

Student feedback following Senior Sergeant William’s presentation was very positive. The girls gained a lot from the discussions and felt comfortable to ask any questions they had in relation to social media and safe mobile phone use. We are all looking forward to Senior Sergeant William’s next visit to Girls Grammar.

Kara Krehlik

Deputy Principal - Students



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