Published on February 21, 2024

One of the main areas of concern many parents raise with the Wellbeing Team focuses on online safety and the appropriate use of devices. I understand that people are at different points of their “online journey” with their young adults, and this piece is simply meant to highlight some of the areas people can find a little overwhelming.

The online world has developed so much since the days of Zuckerberg’s “The Facebook”, which was launched in the US back in 2004 to students at Harvard University, and it continues to develop so rapidly that it almost defies understanding. Now, of course, Facebook is one part of Meta, and it is certainly not the social medium of choice among young people. They have moved on to Instagram, TikTok and other media instead, as this is where it is perceived all of the “influencers” are to be found.

Every school is dealing with issues which arise on the “socials”, and this is not a trend which is likely to change any time soon.

First of all, it is very important to state that this is a very tricky domain for our young people to navigate, and, by extension, a very challenging area for parents to navigate too.

A critical element in all of this is to understand that, until they grow older and wiser, a young person’s brain development is not at the point where they will necessarily know what the best course of action to take might be. This is one reason why social media place the “age restriction” of 13 years plus on their sites. This is a very loose restriction and is mostly bypassed by young people themselves or by parents who succumb to the pressure placed on them by their son or daughter. You may have been told: “Everyone else is on there!”, or “I’m missing out because I am the only one who is not on there!” This is the reason we refer to FOMO – the very real fear of missing many young people experience.

It is interesting to note that there have been a number of our students in Years 11 and 12 who have taken themselves off the social media platforms they did not like what is appearing on there. That is one of the main differences in the brain development I referenced earlier.  That is, that that kind of decision comes more easily a little later in life.

Impulsiveness is part and parcel of the way many young people act, especially when choosing to post or comment online. We often deal with students who have posted nasty comments online, chosen to post pictures of friends online with derogatory comments or captions, or who take photos of people and post them online either in a private chat group or more publicly. We have on rare occasions also had students who post captioned photos of a member of staff online.

The sending/posting of images online without the person’s consent is illegal. The sending/posting of nudes or similar online is also illegal. Yet many young people impulsively do this, without any thought given to the potential harm that action might cause.

So, here are some points to consider:

  • We have students attending our school who are not allowed to be photographed for many reasons. What if they were to appear in a photo that is spread online, even in the background?
  • Many people simply do not wish to have their photos used online as one can never be sure where the photo will appear. The consideration here is that photos sent online go into a space where the sender has absolutely no control over what happens to the images.

Comments made online can also impact the minds of our young people In so many different ways. Supportive comments build us all up, as we know, whilst derogatory, untrue comments can have a very negative impact on people, especially if they are posted in a forum open to others.

If we use the Human Rights Commission definition of bullying – which is reflected in our HVGS definition in the Student Diary – then social media platforms become a means by which bullying can easily occur. The definition reads: “when people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions against someone…to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing. These actions are usually done by people who have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone feel less powerful or helpless.”

Impulsiveness is again a factor, along with the feeling that the person sending the message can do this in a context in which they are not having to face another person, which therefore makes it easier to do.

How do we at HVGS endeavour to educate our young people on the ways to navigate the online area of their lives?

We seek to inform our students and to enable them to make decisions in this space in the following ways:

*We involve students in programs which are tailored to raise awareness of and build skills in respectful relationships. These workshops, with follow up during Wellbeing Lessons, focus on the importance of treating others well in all sorts of situations – friendships, boyfriend/girlfriend, and online. Stage 4, for example, will work with Burn Bright in Term 1 on this very issue.

* Online safety is included in various aspects of the content delivered in several courses, PDHPE being the main one.

*Further, we have over many years drawn on the expertise of various specialists to workshop online safety. This is done using drama productions (Brainstorm Productions), which are also followed up at school during Wellbeing Lessons. Another avenue we utilise, is to invite guest speakers to engage with students at their level directly in relation to current concerns which exist in their online world. Stage 5, for example, will have Brett Lee working with them in March. He will also be running a free parent webinar, which will be open to all parents across the school. Stay tuned for further information about this.

Brett runs Internet Safe Education –  Internet Safe Education

Some tips:

Endeavour having phone and Smart Watch free time which helps allow for the development of social skills.

The ubiquitous use of electronic devices creates problems in all sorts of contexts, especially now that there are Smart Phones which are linked to those devices.

In a home context when being able to spend together is important, removal of devices (everyone’s device) is key to minimizing distractions and ensuring that you are actually “together”.

By way of example in my workplace setting, and in an effort to address this with my team, I have taken the step of requiring them to leave devices away from meetings. These devices cannot help but distract people’s attention away from the focus of what we are there to achieve. A mobile phone linked to a Smart Watch is a recipe for a person’s attention to be distracted every time a message or a post lands.

In December last year, Rebecca Butterworth published a blog post about holiday time and technology.

Here is the link if you missed it, or wish to re-read it:

In that article, the importance of non-screen time was highlighted. A researcher in this area, Anya Kamenetz, was also quoted. She writes in her book The Art of Screentime: How your Family can Balance Digital Media and Real Life about teaching healthy online habits to children in ways that mirror what we teach them about healthy eating habits and exercise habits. Her research also highlights the importance of parents insisting on boundaries from an early age, and establishing parameters for young people as they engage with the online world.

Endeavour having no devices in bedrooms – and buy a digital alarm.

Devices in the bedrooms of our young people are potentially quite impactful in a negative sense. This is often where online behaviours can deteriorate, where online gambling habits can grow, and the receipt of painful messages can have the most impact on a young person receiving them. Findings show that they are then also more likely to keep things to themselves and to not be open to any discussion.

They also impact terribly on the crucial sleep habits our young people need to adopt in order to allow them to develop and flourish. (That’s another discussion in its own right!)


Establish open channels of ccommunication. It is never too late.

Communication between parents and their children is crucial. Ensure you are ready to answer questions and be very empathetic when your young person brings you something they have encountered online. Let them know that they can come to you, and they will not need to fear that their device will be taken from them. That is a huge fear some young people have and that is often why they do not bring problems or questions to their parents.

Be aware of what your young person doing online, and do not be afraid to place limits around their use of devices. This is when having a good level of communication is really important, and, if you do have this, it makes discussions around the use of devices easier to have, and it is much easier to explain the “why?”.



The Office of the E-Safety Commissioner is a wealth of resources for us all as parents and educators. We are very fortunate in Australia to have such an organisation, and an organization which has legislated powers to back it up.  There is advice aplenty to be found, and it has a series of webinars which may be of interest to you. I’ve included a screen shot below of some of the webinars they have in Term 1 across a range of topics. The dates can be found on the website.

There is also an area where you can report anything that concerns you; from intimidation online, to reporting horrible things you might have encountered online.

If you scroll down you will soon see that adults are also very much involved in inappropriate actions online. If you are experiencing issues in this area, this section could provide you with useful information and guidance.

The all-important link is:

Webinars this term


If you have any questions or specific concerns, please feel free to contact your respective Wellbeing Team member for some helpful advice.


Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson

Deputy Principal and Head of Senior School