The Alan Jones Breakfast Show – Protecting children online with cyber security expert, David Kobler

The ‘New’ Growing Problem with the Technology Today

Chris: This is a big, big issue for parents, grandparents, and children.

This week, in New South Wales, returns to school. Many of them started school, in Queensland, took place last week.

As parents would know, technology is playing an increasingly greater role in the classroom, and at home – it’s everywhere.

Textbooks, as seemed are going by the waste side in their favorite computer, tablets, and other devices, which seems to make sense. But there’s a price with all of this technology, not just in dollar terms. We’re told that these devices pose a serious threat to cyber security. It claims that vast majority of new mobile devices don’t have cyber-safety controls, in other words, parents don’t bother. And even when they are installed, we’re told that the majority of them are confusing, expensive, and too easy for children to avoid (they are smart).

The latest statistics from online control experts – Family Zone, show 45% of teens are using unsafe social media. The figure shows that they are spending up to 3 hours a day in social media. (I reckon that’s an underestimation, I actually think you’ll find it’s a lot closer to 5). 90% of boys and 60% of girls have visited porn sites. Now the Australian Medical Association says there’s strong link between online pornography and (what they describe to as) adverse sexual and mental outcomes. 70% of girls between 15 and 19 have received online harassment and bullying is endemic.

And the majority of parents are concerned in the amount of time their children spend on devices and are saying that their kids are addicted, and seriously it has gotten out of control and is a major disruption to the focus on school work, something that we, as young people never faced.

The question is, “What do you do about it?”.

David Kobler, a cyber safety expert, he and his wife Katie run a website YourChoicez.com.au. David Kobler, welcome to the program!

David: Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris: From your perspective, just how big the issue is this? How big a mind-field is it for children, but that means for parents as well? How big an issue?

David: It’s a new issue, and that’s what I think it made it challenging. We’ve got a generation of parents now that didn’t have devices when they were young. To the extent that kids do today, that for the majority of homes, you have your 10-11 y/o kids as the administrator of the home. They know how it all works, they are “Digital Native” and we’re the “Digital Immigrant” who are trying to keep up. So a lot of parents feel like they don’t have the tools be aware of what their kids are going through online.

Setting Boundaries Without Being So Though

Chris: See, even when I’m online, on my very limited social media, I will get access accidentally to sites that I don’t simply want to see, whether it is violent sites, or pornographic sites, or whatever. So if it’s easy for me to accidentally stumble to any of this stuff, what about those who are far more curious have yet to see this kind of material and how easy for them to gravitate to that material.

David: Yeah. That’s exactly right, well I reckon a lot of research suggesting that the average of first exposure to pornography is now 11 years of age and most of that would be accidental. Kids type these things that friends have suggested, or hearing sexual terms that they don’t know what it is – they google it.

Chris: And in most cases, they wouldn’t tell their parents.

David: No, that’s exactly right. Particularly, there hasn’t any much conversation about it. If there’s one talk, often there’s been an assumption that there’s something wrong with their curiosity around that. So they’ve been shut down and they just google more.

We know how these affect young people. I remember a 15-year old telling me, after the seminar, he tried so hard to stop looking pornography. He put his phone in a drawer, lock the drawer and throws the key away. He just felt trapped by what he is being exposed to. And this is where parents really need to give their kids boundaries to their online usage without being so tough.

So something like Family Zone will be so great because its parents can use that. It allows them to monitor their usage but not to turn off the Internet. Have appropriate time to be online, have appropriate sites to be on, have appropriate apps and really kind of allowed him to back in control.

Chris: Am I being too tough when during the holidays I decided my kids spent too long using their devices. I don’t know what there could be infatuated by but I’ll just turn off the data and be done with it and go without for four weeks. Am I being too tough?

David: No, I think its good it’s good for kids to have time with her just to stop and not online for periods of time. It gives a little bit of reset and I think it’s important to do all the time.

We start the new year and we often have our goals, and I think something like that can be helpful to kids just to get them outside and get their mind fresh ready for new year. And so I think that’s the best thing to do.

Chris: Many parents perhaps would have to admit sometimes we use technology as a bit of a babysitter don’t we?

David: Yes definitely.

Chris: And it can be a bad thing because they’re not communicating they’re not being active and if we think that everything is hunky-dory – who knows what they’re accessing.

David: A lot of research recently done by Family Zone to find that YouTube is the big one. I guess with YouTube, we all been in on it,  and you can just pick on it from one thing to another and most of the time you don’t know how you ended up where you ended up. So even something like YouTube to kids, if you’ve got young kids, we can’t say that it is safe.

At least when we put the TV on we got the basic understanding of the show that is going to come one but with YouTube it’s very different to that. And again, there just needs to be boundaries, and this is where Family Zone, with apps they can block or choose what they can access. It just gives parents that have the ability to control.

How Can Parents Protect Their Kids With The Effects Of Technology

Chris: So how do we go about with that sort of stuff? How do we keep our guard on the different formats of social media, YouTube, and anything that may flood into some of the internet sites that they surf? How do we put some boundaries on their phone?

David: When a new phone is bought, this is where family zone or parents cyber control system installed is a good idea to have upon giving them.

I think a lot of the challenges of being is that as soon as the phone is being brought to school. There are a lot of issues with how it works in school. If it’s an iPad there’s a lot of problems when it jumps across to a new network. This cloud-based system of Family Zone works at the school, at home, or 3/4G. So this is something that a lot of parents can have a lot of breathing space, they know that they are going to be OK whether they are right next to them or whether they’re in the school setting.

Also a lot of times, when parents have given them the devices they never give it back no matter what they do. So they had to get the device back and put all the settings on it, it’s all done in a cloud. This basically means that when they are sitting on a bus, they’re on the same parameters as they were at home.  Same with if they are in a school classroom, all the parameters that are being set up by a cyber expert.

We put in time when they can be appropriate, it can modify but it just helps them know not to be online for eight hours straight. It will switch them off at times when they should be sleeping and they can look at their phone but they can’t get online. Just, again, we don’t want to get kids go running outside the streets in the middle of the night, so do you need boundaries in their online usage as well.

Chris: It’s interesting a lot of times with that with teenage girls seeing that  (my little girl turns 14 tomorrow) hearing these girls talk about the fact that “Oh.. I didn’t get much sleep last night because I was on a particular social media site until 1130 at night” – There’s got to be times – what are the most appropriate time zones to say “enough is enough”?

David: What we do know is that from about 10 PM to 2 AM is the most problematic times online for teenagers.

This is the time where we see a lot of bullying the time. We see a lot of harassment, a lot of exposure to the things that they shouldn’t be exposed to.

As far as teenage girls we see a lot – the issue of sexting is ramped the moment. We seen the girls being threatened, pressured, blackmailed to send photos. And we know the stories’ coming to news is how all of this can be to either party.  I remember a story recently a girl is being in a scandal and police is involved, and was really, really humiliated. She was in one of the seminars, and years later she can speak to us in a session about this new relationship – the new guy that she’s been dating is harassing her saying “Hey do you love me like you love him? Then send me a nude”

The reality to them is, the kind of “Why?”

You can imagine the young person sitting in their room at 10 PM or 11 o’clock at night, no one’s there, feeling this pressure – it can be really challenging for a teenager to negotiate the right approach.

Chris: And they find it difficult to stop responding. It almost as if, it has to be endless – it’s infinite.

David: A girl showed her phone and received a hundred of messages – day after day, she never replied to every single day – “Show me a nude… Take a pic…” – just constant. We see this as a sexual harassment but to them this is normal. This is what they have grown up with.

Parents have got to be really involved.

Effects of Pornography on the Brain

Chris: The Australian Medical Association has said there’s strong link between online pornography and (what they describe to as) adverse sexual and mental outcomes. It seems that at the end of the day, you can become brainwashed, into thinking that the twist of the misogynistic way of sex is the “normal”.

David: Yeah. It is. For really a lot of young people, pornography is their sex education now, understanding of sex. Pornography is not really interested in giving kids a healthy understanding of sexual relationships. Like what you said, it’s misogynistic, it’s often being degrading, violent, and aggressive.

So for an 11 y/old kid who’s growing up, thinking that’s what sex is, so that’s what relationship looks like. Then when they tend to start a relationship, there’s going to be some real problems, problems of content, and problems with how to speak to appropriately.

Chris: A lifelong dysfunction in dealing with the opposite sex.

David: Definitely.

Chris: The latest figure showed that an average teenage posted online for 20 hours a week, it seems to be a long time. My gut feeling is it’s a lot longer than that.

David: Yes, I agree. I definitely agree. As you said, kids going up to school feeling sleepy. It shouldn’t be happening. This is where there needs to be a system in place with the times that the device can be online. They really do need boundaries.

Coming back to how addictive this is. Social media produces a lot of dopamine (an addictive chemical that brain produced), every time you get that text, you get that notification – it feels good. Of course, they are going to be online consistently. It’s what they are doing in their brain but the effect is the outcomes in their school work. I just see that parents turn a blind eye and hope that they’ll figure out their own.

Chris: Yeah, very true. Parents can’t listen to something like and go “oh… hopefully it will all be okay. My kids are okay”. They are becoming addicted. They actually have no choice to get themselves out of the web. You just wonder what kind of distraction it is to the usual focus on school work that may be existed in the previous generation. Because in the previous generation if you had fallow time, you probably pick up a book with a little prompting and subconsciously increase your vocabulary, your understanding, your comprehension, that was all fantastic in my day. But now there’s no fallow time, fallow time is used in social media.

David: Yes, that’s exactly right.

More about David Kobler and YourChoicez.com.au

Chris: Tell us about your website – YourChoicez.com.au

David: Your Choicez run seminars on schools around Australia – talking about these topics, particularly sex, dating, relationships, body image, sexting, all that kind of sensitive topics. Then we’ve just started another website called ProtectOurKids.com.au  and basically, that is around this concept. Family Zone is our partner with, in really helping parents how to figure how to protect their kids online and give them an easy to do it.

Social Media is not bad. The Web and the Internet are not bad. They are great things but they do need guidance and help to go through that and make most out of it. That’s truly what our hope is.

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