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A few days ago I was reading the government’s original “Plan for Cyber-Safety“, apparently dating back to the election campaign, and all the concerning things contained within. The best place to start commenting on it, I suppose, is at the central theme of Labor’s plan. I know this is the central theme, because they repeated it in big letters inside a coloured box. At any rate, this is it:

Labor considers that, just as we teach Australian children about the risks of drink driving, we must also teach them how to be responsible cyber-citizens and about the importance of cyber-safety.

The eight-page document begins by listing all the possible negative consequences of using the internet, such as “computer addiction”, “anti-social behaviour”, “cyber bullying”, “depression”, and “physical harm”. With those facts firmly established, they list their main idea, quoted above: all Australian children must be taught how to be “responsible cyber-citizens”.

Nowhere does the plan define what “responsible cyber-citizenship” is, although we can safely assume it involves “cyber-safety”. Despite not having a firm definition, the government sees responsible cyber-citizenship as an important part of children’s overall health and well-being, and with this in mind, it will be forced upon all children as a kind of health measure. They will force it upon children through the intermediaries of parents and teachers, whose duties are as follows:

All parents need to be made aware of the issues and threats that their children can be faced with when using computers and the internet and ensure their children use computers and the internet responsibly.

Teachers will ensure that Australian children are provided with a first-rate cyber-safety education. Teachers will need to be armed with up-to-date, comprehensive and age-appropriate teaching materials and an understanding of cyber-safety.

But, just in case parents and teachers fail, or just in case children are too misguided to be responsible cyber-citizens, the government will also implement a mandatory filtering system. That way, if children try to access inappropriate websites (such as “irresponsible” wikileaks), they’ll find it blocked, and their attempt at irresponsible cyber-citizenship will be foiled.

On page four, the plan reflects on the Howard Government’s plan, and admits that they took a step in the right direction. The Howard Government released an optional filter that parents could download, if the thought of uncensored Internet access bothered them that much. In my opinion this plan is preferable, since it gives people choice. However, Labor says this plan falls short, pointing out the following deficiencies:

  • the filters can be bypassed (in an interesting sidenote, the kid who bypassed the filters now works for the government, promoting its vision of “cyber-safety”)
  • “wasting money” on a public awareness campaign
  • not enough sites are blocked to “protect our children from harmful and inappropriate content”
  • children who are concerned about material they may have seen on the internet cannot receive immediate assistance from the government

Labor goes on to say that its plan is better because its filters cannot be evaded. Its plan is better because its filters will be more comprehensive, blocking many more things than that pathetic Liberal list. Its plan is also better because all children will be raised — sorry, empowered to be responsible cyber-citizens, and even in adult life they will be aware that they can report all inappropriate material to the government, and the government will be happy to respond.

They go on to explain how they can be sure teachers will educate children about “cyber-safety” in accordance with its wishes. From 2009, student teachers will be required to have an understanding of cyber-safety and know how to engage their students appropriately and effectively on these issues. Current teachers will be required to complete training, if their states and territories cooperate.

The government understands the importance of consultation. To this end, they will create a youth advisory committee which is to meet every three months with the consultative working group, to discuss issues of “cyber-safety”. To be eligible for the youth advisory committee, you must have a demonstrated passion for the ideals of cyber-safety. Furthermore, the issues you’ll be discussing are primarily how to persuade your fellow youths that “responsible cyber-citizenship” is the way to be.

This is the plan. The one the government is actively working towards, right now. They’ve publicly admitted it won’t stop child porn, and insisted that wasn’t the point. Why? Because this is the point. Stopping child porn is the phony story they tell to distract people. You know, when they’re not avoiding the topic altogether. Their real goal is to create a nation of “responsible cyber-citizens”… whatever that really means.

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4 Comments

  1. I can’t wait to get my “up-to-date, comprehensive and age-appropriate teaching materials”. I’m sure they will change my life! Oh, and – of course – the lives of my students…

    Hope this post means that you are having a break from the study.

    • Man, I can’t wait to see what these teaching materials are. Knowing my luck, they’re probably slideshows. It probably depends on what kind of person the government will aim their propaganda at, though. If my Geography class is considered typical, slideshows are definitely the way to go. My classmates are OBSESSED with slideshows and beg our teacher to show more to us every class, even when he has graciously allowed us a class without them. I don’t think they’d mind if the topic was “cyber-safety” instead of the geography curriculum — in fact, they’d probably prefer it that way! On the other hand, if my History classmates are considered typical, slideshows would be just about the worst possible tool to use (after our experience with “good citizenship”). Perhaps that’s what they mean by “comprehensive” — different materials for different people.

      I probably shouldn’t be taking a break from study, considering just how much work I have to do, but I am on holidays. My plan is to write more frequent entries over the two weeks, but it was never my plan to have huge breaks between entries in the first place. We’ll see.

  2. Since everyone now has computers and the net, kids (and schools) should teach kids about cyber safety just like telling a toddler the stove is hot don’t touch.

    Hope your teaching materials aren’t just slideshows but something you can take away with you for future reference

    • Well, I don’t object to kids being taught about cyber-safety. Your analogy is absolutely correct — just like telling a toddler not to touch hot stoves. Cyber-safety is common sense and should be taught by parents, or primary school teachers perhaps. (They do a lot of social education, after all.) If someone hasn’t acquired a modicum of common sense regarding cyber-safety by the end of primary school, I’m not sure they ever will. High school cyber-safety classes are just teachers playing Captain Obvious, and the handouts received promptly meet the recycle bin. They’re just unnecessary.

      Besides, that’s assuming that the government is only interested in cyber-safety. They’ve admitted they’re not. They’re not content with kids being “safe”, they want them to be responsible. That doesn’t mean teaching them about the importance of copyright law. That means blocking vast swathes of the Internet, encouraging kids to report anything they find “disturbing” straight to the government, and basically, encouraging a mentality that the government knows what’s good for you, and if you know what’s good for you too, you’ll listen to them. That’s what the plan itself indicates, and what I suspect classes will be aimed at. I went over specifics in my entry, but that’s what my issue is, not kids being safe.


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  1. By The PR State « Jayeless on 09 Jun 2009 at 5:34 pm

    […] can see this in Labor’s Plan for Cyber-Safety. All right, they’ve outlined their plan, and they’ve explained that it’s […]

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