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Parent expectations are driving unsafe phone use | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) advocates have spoken out and expressed their concerns about the pervasive presence of devices such as smartphones and tablets in ECEC classrooms, which “blur the line of appropriate technology use”, saying the demands of parents for constant updates is to blame. 


The discussions come in the light of a recent Australian Federal Police (AFP) announcement that a former early childhood educator had been charged with 1,623 child abuse offences against 91 children in Brisbane, Sydney and overseas between 2007 and 2022.


Hetty Johnston, Co-Chair of the National Office of Child Safety Advisory Group and Founder of child protection charity Bravehearts, advised parents to ask about staff phone policies when choosing a centre, and encouraged them to consider carefully the need to be in constant connection with a service through any number of applications or programs. 


“What you need is for your children to be safe, and cameras are a risk. Parents need to decide if they want a pretty picture or a safe child,” she shared with a journalist from The Sydney Morning Herald. 


Speaking in the same piece, Australian Childcare Alliance Vice President Nesha Hutchinson said that while most services have strict rules about personal devices, it was “unfortunately common” for educators to spend their days taking photographs of children, creating “an unnecessary risk” that such images could fall into the wrong hands. 


“We’re updating parents minute by minute,” she continued, expressing her perspective that educators did not enter the profession to be “digitally scrapbooking” children. 


Australian Childhood Foundation CEO Dr Joe Tucci believes that while photographs can be a useful tool for communication between home and ECEC settings, strict policies are needed, recommending that services follow these guidelines: 


  • Only take photographs on a device owned by the ECEC service 
  • Two staff members should be present when the device is being used
  • A policy should be developed for deleting or archiving the photo after it has been sent. 


AFP and ACECQA to review child safety rules 


Following the AFP announcement, Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare has directed the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) to work with the AFP on its review of child safety rules.


ACECQA and the AFP will deliver an interim report at a meeting of state and territory education ministers in October, before handing down a final report in December.


It is anticipated the findings will include examining existing provisions for child-safe physical and online environments, as well as staffing and supervision requirements.


The review will also consider calls, which have become louder since the AFP announcement, to nationalise the state-based Working with Children Check, a process recommended by the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2015 as well as the Productivity Commission.


This, Mr Tucci said, may not be enough, given that some jurisdictions only consider previous criminal charges and offences, while others include disciplinary action by a professional body or being subject to family violence intervention orders.


To access the original coverage of this story, please see here

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