eSmart is a cybersafety framework created by children’s charity, The Alannah and Madeline Foundation. Jeremy Blackman, senior cybersafety specialist, tells us how eSmart aims to bring about positive change for the online practices of future generations of young Australians.

What is eSmart and how does it address some of the big issues affecting children online?  

eSmart, an initiative of The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, is a culture-change initiative currently being rolled out in schools and libraries to improve cybersafety and reduce cyberbullying. The eSmart framework is a holistic approach to cybersafety and wellbeing that guides schools, libraries and homes through the necessary steps to achieve ‘eSmart Status’. For example, eSmart Schools provides a road map for school leadership teams, which guides them through the necessary steps to achieve ‘eSmart Status’. There are six key Domains that schools work through, depending on their needs, such as: ‘Effective school organisation’; ‘Plans, policies and procedures’; ‘A respectful and caring school community’; and ‘An eSmart curriculum’. Schools are provided with targeted support, including a database of industry-leading resources, ongoing gap analysis and a support centre. The ultimate aim for schools is to establish and maintain an ‘eSmart’ environment in which core values are consistent and upheld school-wide and measures are in place at every level of the school to reduce bullying, cyberbullying and unsafe online practices. 

Tell us about the newest module, eSmart Homes.

eSmart Homes is the latest addition to our eSmart programs. eSmart Homes will be a website available in the second half of 2014 that will offer parents advice on how to make sure their families are smart, safe and responsible online. It will have a very practical focus, giving free access to an interactive tool that will help parents identify what they are doing well and what they need to do better when it comes to cybersafety in their home. Topics will range from ‘Safely setting up devices’, to ‘Active parenting’ and ‘Incident reporting’. All of the eSmart initiatives reinforce the importance of being smart, safe and responsible online to increase cybersafety awareness and reduce cyberbullying across Australia.

What evidence is there to support the initiative?

The evaluation of the eSmart program, led by the Foundation for Young Australians, collected data from over 4,000 respondents, including over 500 principals and coordinators. Key findings from the evaluation include:

  • Over 90 per cent agree eSmart supports improving teacher, student and parent understanding of expected online behaviours.
  • Almost 80 per cent agree eSmart is effective for changing school culture.

What lifelong benefits could eSmart have on today’s children? 

The eSmart philosophy is primarily concerned with teaching a generation of smart, safe and responsible behaviours regarding technology. Knowledge, attitudes and values will then be passed along to succeeding generations. Just as the government ‘QUIT’ campaign has influenced a change in smoking behaviours, following generations will know how to be safe online and be able to embrace the benefits online technology, whilst being savvy about the pitfalls. This ranges from helping them separate their personal and professional lives, using emerging technologies innovatively, to active ‘digital citizenry’, where they assist others and safeguard themselves to promote a safer internet.

For more information about eSmart and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, visit www.amf.org.au