The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence | Interview 3

Empowering kids to be safe online is as important as teaching them to cross roads safely. In today’s world it is crucial they understand how to navigate the online world, because unfortunately, the Internet can expose them to cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and online predators. Developing digital literacy and responsible online behaviour helps them spot and navigate these dangers, protect their personal information, and make informed choices. It also lays the foundation for a lifetime of positive online interactions, and the ability to critically assess online information safely and securely.

Growing connections in the online space may seem easy, but kids need to understand how to remain safe and know where to turn if they require help and support. 

At ESET, we stand as a global cybersecurity company dedicated to safeguarding families and individuals. Safer Kids Online, an ESET initiative, takes a focused approach to ensure that the younger generation can explore the digital landscape with confidence and security.

In support of the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, we embarked on a series of enlightening interviews in order to share essential insights, best practices, and invaluable tips for maintaining online safety.

Guiding us through these expert interviews is Jake Moore, ESET’s Global Cybersecurity Advisor. Beyond his role in analysis, Jake's profound expertise extends to prominent media outlets such as BBC, ITV, and The Times. His grasp of cybersecurity and understanding of cyber threats promise to illuminate the intricate aspects of the digital terrain.

In our final interview, Jake talks with Craig Dow Sainter, the visionary Founder and Executive Producer at Roar Educate, and Founder at The Cyberpass. Roar Educate has been providing online education and training to Australian and UK schools, homes and communities for over 15 years, and The Cyberpass stands out as an online education tool that imparts essential skills for responsible online use, which also incorporates engaging quizzes and a plethora of support content, empowering both parents and children alike.

Craig's remarkable expertise lies in impactful factual television and interactive digital education content. However, it's his unwavering commitment to children's cybersecurity, awareness, and fostering of connections that truly shines. Guided by Craig's insights, the conversation traverses themes of awareness, connection, and responsibility, with wisdom and empathy to navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape.


Jake: Today we're really excited to have Craig Dow Sainter, the visionary Founder and Executive Producer at Roar Film and Roar Educate, pioneering impactful, factual TV and interactive digital educational content.

Nice to meet you, Craig. Your passion lies in digital literacy education, advocating for comprehensive discussions beyond eSafety and security. So your project, The CyberPass, is simplifying teaching digital literacy while identifying specific knowledge gaps for kids. I think not only kids need that, parents and teachers need it as well.

Craig: Thanks, Jake. We started working in this space nearly 20 years ago with the London Grid for Learning over in the UK. What I found interesting was that they were looking at online safety (and this is back in the mid-2000’s) through the prism of digital citizenship; meaning, as users, we all have rights, which we totally agree with, and we have roles, but we also have responsibilities.

That’s a really key takeaway, that as users of technologies, whether as teachers, parents or children, we all have responsibilities to the online community that we work within.

Jake: Yes, everyone's got that responsibility. Some people think it's the other group's responsibility. I know a lot of parents dig their heads in the sand and think the teachers have got to teach those kids, but sometimes you just find the kids are teaching themselves. So, how important is it to educate kids around being safe online?

Craig: It's paramount. We can’t use technology safely if we aren't aware of the rules of the road, if you like. 

Unless we provide our young people with some skills and, to a degree, some resilience – not stoicism, but resilience – on how to deal with things when they go pear-shaped, then we're creating not only a problem for ourselves as a community, but it’s a real detriment to young people's well-being.

So, it's not an option to do nothing. For schools, it's part of their safeguarding and duty of care. I've been invited along to so many parent information evenings, and it's heartbreaking because you see 100 chairs laid out and there's 12, 13, 14 parents there listening to the issues about online safety which that school is trying to get across. I think there's a problem there.

The other issue is that there's a disconnect. I’ve got a 9- and a 12-year-old who are wanting to reach out and connect to other people online, and play with them. I don't use the same apps as my 12-year-old . I don't online game in the same way. So I theoretically have the social maturity to be able to present sage advice to my children, and they’ll probably disagree with that suggestion, but there's a disconnect that I don't necessarily have the technology insights that they have because they're using different materials on different platforms.

Jake: I think you're so right. My kids are similar ages. One thing I've found helpful is to download the same apps they use on their tablets to my phone. I then play around with the security settings. Obviously, no kid goes to look at the cog and clicks on settings to see what else they can do. Sometimes there's a lot on offer that the kids don't even care about. A few small shifts here and there can really help in the background without them even knowing what's there.

But, you're right – not knowing what your kids are up to, that's a typical reaction to online behaviour.

Craig: On the weekend, my son wanted to play on other servers with Microsoft Java through the Xbox online. It was a bit tricky, but what I found, because his permissions were not set, was that he could actually get onto other people's servers and play multiplayer games because that's what we had allowed previously.

So it was interesting that, even though I'm pretty involved, I wasn't even sure what some of the permissions meant. If I click “allow”, what exactly am I allowing you to do? It's great because we were having a conversation and if we didn't know, we went and looked it up.

Get involved!

Jake: I love that. Get involved and learn together. Let's bring it back to bullying and the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence this year. How has cyberbullying evolved in the last twelve months?

Craig: Different things are going on in different territories. The eSafety Commissioners in Australia are constantly canvassing the public, and in their current research there are two things I find disturbing. The first is impersonation; they’re seeing more highly-complex and deceitful approaches to bullying.It’s not just “sticks and stones” in a digital sense, it's people getting online and impersonating someone, creating posts in that person's name, pretending to be that person and saying things that will cause that person's reputation harm.

What concerns me most about that, if you ask me how to address it, is that I don't know. There’s a lot of energy going into something like that. It requires a lot of background effort to actually create something as complex and, as they say, deceitful. That really worries me.

The other thing I see which I find disturbing with regard to bullying, is the whole idea, and it's a passive one, of exclusion. Watching the social dynamics of young people, exclusion is just as powerful a negative force as harassment. To be socially excluded online is actually, for a lot of children, like getting your social arm cut off.

We’re not going to necessarily make all this go away, but what we can do is create a community that supports each other, and helps people through this when you become the focus of these negative activities.

Jake: What about school leaders? I think especially senior school leaders, principals, deputy heads and department heads. How can they lead from the front when it comes to tackling bullying, including cyberbullying?

Craig: At my kids’ school, they go through fire safety, they go through road safety, they do swimming and water safety. All these things are done by people from outside of the school who are brought in as experts. We can't expect the grade three, four or five teacher to suddenly don their safety hat and be expert in this.

We are asking students to now bring their own devices, use devices responsibly, and yet we don't educate them. We educate them on how to use an Excel spreadsheet and a word processing application, but we don't necessarily give them the social skills to be a responsible user. We need to go back to the idea of looking at this through a citizenship prism. I'd be talking to schools about really making it front and centre, and actually making a point to parents that you've got to have that home and school continuum. 

It's tough as a parent. You get home? Dinner to prepare, homework, but you've just got to be having these conversations. And if you're already having a conversation about the good stuff, then it'll be easier if there's a conversation about the bad stuff.

Jake: I love what you say about getting external people in. I don't remember ever being taught about swimming and fire safety from my teachers. Hearing experts also means the message sinks in a little bit more. So, the theme for the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence is “Growing Connections”. What tips would you give to kids about reaching out to a trusted adult if you or someone you know is being cyberbullied?

Craig: Find yourself a trusted adult, and if that can't be a parent, let it be an uncle or an aunt, a carer. I remember going to my friends' places when I was a kid, and occasionally I’d find one parent that was really easy to talk to over my own mum and dad, and I’d feel reasonably confident it wasn't going any further. So that’s an option. 

Swinging it around to the adults’ point of view, I think it's really key that we get involved. Sure, I don't like online gaming, but I do it because my son loves it. If it was bushwalking or kayaking he liked, I’d go and do those things, to be part of his life, just like I drag him to things I’m interested in. Also, and I know this from personal experience, if you're going to say that you're the safe and responsible person for your child to come to when they need support, be careful and don’t just confiscate their device to protect your child. That’s a knee-jerk reaction to make the situation become safe. 

By taking the device away from a tween or a teenager, in many cases, you’re actually isolating them. You're blaming the victim – not intentionally – out of the desire to protect. So I guess the lesson from that is to take a big, deep breath and talk to your child.

Jake: Great, so what are your top takeaways, to finish this off?

Craig: Definitely the communication, but something also occurred to me over the weekend. We celebrate at a school level – the school newsletter is always celebrating academic achievement, celebrating sporting achievements, celebrating kids who do fundraisers and community engagement, and we love that.

What about we celebrate the upstanders at school level? Even if you’re not involved, to see someone online in trouble, or a friend having problems digitally, being an upstander and getting behind them to support them and be there for them, displays courage, integrity and compassion. 

Those are three aspects of behaviour we should celebrate in schools. Not to the detriment of everything else, but wouldn't it be really interesting? It doesn’t even have to be solely about digital, because we know bullying blows over from the digital realm into the schoolyard.

I think it can be something that we actually respect as a class, as a school, as a nation, and globally. It’s like, hey, you stood up, good on you. Well done. 

Jake: Craig, it's been fantastic talking with you. Thank you. Where can people find out more about you?

Craig: The online resource where we measure the competencies of kids around online safety is The CyberPass. We publish the findings from that site free of charge to everyone.  

We also consolidate the data on a national basis, at the Student Online Safety Index

That's where you can see what kids do and don't know, and it’s a good resource for teachers and parents to identify where to focus initial discussions with the kids.


About ESET

We are a pioneering cybersecurity company with over 30 years of experience, offering award-winning technology to protect individuals, families, and businesses across more than 200 countries and territories. As active members of the global Internet community, we are dedicated to safeguarding our digital future and contributing to a safer online environment for everyone.


About Safer Kids Online

Safer Kids Online, an ESET initiative, is a comprehensive digital safety platform designed to empower children and young people to navigate the digital world securely. With a focus on curating expert advice, tips, knowledge, and tools, Safer Kids Online ensures that children can fully harness the benefits of the digital realm while maintaining their safety and well-being.