Kindergarten kids to get cyber safety training as AFP reveal children as young as four posting explicit material

Kindergarten kids to get cyber safety training as AFP reveal children as young as four posting explicit material

Kindergarten kids to get cyber safety training as AFP reveal children as young as four posting explicit material

Updated 6 February 2018, 16:50 AEDT

Children as young as four will now be trained in cybersecurity due to concerns they are at risk of being targeted online by child sex offenders.

The Federal Government has announced the ThinkUKnow cybersafety program will be extended to children in kindergarten and years one and two.

The program, aimed at parents, teachers and until now students from years three to 12, has been running in Australian schools for the past nine years.

Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has found kindergarten-aged children have been unknowingly uploading sexually explicit material.

"We realise now that young kids are engaging online with phones and iPads and so on in a way that they didn't in the past," Mr Taylor said.

"With younger children it's a different focus. We can't expect them to have the same level of sophistication as a kid who is 15 or 16.

"But we can make sure that parents are supervising closely, that they're helping their kids to identify suspicious behaviour, and that the parents know how to block apps that are inappropriate."

The ThinkUKnow program is led by the AFP, not schools, in collaboration with major corporations like Microsoft and the Commonwealth Bank.

"The AFP has received more than 10,000 reports in the last year or so of child exploitation material, and so of course this is a major focus for them," Mr Taylor said.

"In the last financial year they arrested over 90 alleged offenders."

Piecemeal approach not enough, expert says

But some cybersecurity experts say piecemeal training is not the answer, and the Government should make cybersafety education mandatory in schools.

Susan McLean, a cybersafety expert who provides education programs in schools across the country, is concerned the program's expansion is not enough.

"There are plenty of schools that still do zero cybersafety education, and until it's mandatory by the federal Education Minister, that's not going to change," she said.

The eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, whose office coordinates information on cyber security nationally, agreed cybersafety education needs to be taught more consistently in schools.

"That's a discussion that the federal Education Minister will be having with the states and territories," Ms Inman Grant said.

"I would strongly support any move to make online safety and related education much more comprehensive and consistent. Whether a mandatory standard is the way to go is up to the politicians."

Ms Inman Grant said parents also have a significant role to play, and not just in supervising their children or learning how to manage the online world.

"What I do think we should be doing as parents is we should be modelling good behaviour for children," she said.

"So when we're taking pictures of our kids, we should ask their consent about whether or not they are comfortable with us posting a picture of them online."