Child Online Safety and Protection Conference 2014
Case study: The KidsMatter framework
Dr Lyn O’Grady, KidsMatter – Austr...
Further information about KidsMatter, its evaluations and information on
children’s mental health for families, schools, E...
It is evident then that relationships play a critical role in the mental health and
wellbeing of children. Throughout the ...
It is essential that parents and carers are well equipped with knowledge about
cybersafety because children and young peop...
together promote a safe community and also tackle issues facing children. Within an
education setting, it draws upon the r...


feel able to seek help when things go wrong.

While we continue to learn about the impact of online environments and th...
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Dr Lyn O’Grady, Kids Matter – Australian Psychological Society: Building Children’s Resilience at School and Online

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Evelyn Field, Psychologist, Author and Bully Blocking Expert delivered this presentation at the 2014 Child Online Safety & Protection conference in Sydney. The need to protect children online is at the forefront of parents and teachers minds. The prevalence and use of social media tools is rising and with it comes a wide range of issues which have the potential to impact our future generations.

The Inaugural Child Online Safety & Protection Conference focused on policies, programs and practices for protecting children’s privacy rights and ensuring their safety online. For more information about the event, please visit the conference website:
http://www.informa.com.au/childonlinesafetyconference14

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Dr Lyn O’Grady, Kids Matter – Australian Psychological Society: Building Children’s Resilience at School and Online

  1. 1. Child Online Safety and Protection Conference 2014 Case study: The KidsMatter framework Dr Lyn O’Grady, KidsMatter – Australian Psychological Society Abstract During childhood, children are navigating significant developmental milestones and acquiring skills that form the foundations of lifelong mental health and wellbeing. This includes cognitive, language, physical, social and emotional development and occurs within the context of family, community and education environments. Increasingly, this context is now being expanded to include a virtual world – online spaces in which learning occurs and relationships develop. KidsMatter is an Australian national mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative for children in early childhood education and care settings and primary schools. It provides a socio-ecological framework to understanding children’s development and the factors influencing mental health and wellbeing. Its focus is on building a positive sense of community, social and emotional development, effective partnering with and support of families and supporting children experiencing mental health difficulties. This framework can be useful to help us understand the impact of online environments and importantly inform what education settings and families can do to continue to support children’s mental health and wellbeing. About KidsMatter KidsMatter is a whole-school and early childhood education and care (ECEC) service approach to children’s mental health and wellbeing (see Graetz et. al., 2008) which can assist schools and ECEC services to promote positive mental health, prevent difficulties from occurring and intervene early if difficulties do arise. It is funded by the Australian Government and beyondblue and developed and implemented in partnership by the Australian Psychological Society, Early Childhood Australia and Principals Australia Institute. It provides a framework for understanding and addressing children’s mental health and is organised into four components which focus on:  creating a positive sense of community  teaching social and emotional skills to all children  working effectively with parents and carers  supporting children experiencing mental health difficulties. It also provides a step-by-step implementation process, professional learning and a suite of resources for schools, ECEC services, families and health and community professionals. KidsMatter has been piloted and evaluated in primary schools and ECEC services with positive outcomes found for schools, ECEC services, staff, children and parents and carers. In particular, KidsMatter has been shown to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing. 1
  2. 2. Further information about KidsMatter, its evaluations and information on children’s mental health for families, schools, ECEC services and health and community professionals is available online at www.kidsmatter.edu.au. Relationships matter Schools and education settings are social environments which children are required to navigate as they develop their social and emotional skills during early childhood and the primary school years. This navigation requires the ability to form and maintain relationships with others – both peers and adults – as well as manage any difficulties which may occur. Teachers and education staff play a critical role in helping children develop these skills and can actively engage children in developing social and emotional skills. KidsMatter Component 2 focuses on this work. In addition, through the relationships they develop with children, teachers and education staff help to develop a sense of belonging within the education setting. This sense of belonging has a range of benefits for children’s mental health and wellbeing, including increased confidence, fewer behavioural problems, more positive attitudes to the education setting and increased academic engagement, motivation and achievement (Bergin & Bergin, 2009). KidsMatter Component 1 emphasises the value in the whole education setting working together to develop this sense of belonging and a broader sense of community that is inclusive and respectful of all community members. Parents, carers and other family members play a critical role in supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing. The relationships they form with the education setting and within the community can aid parenting practices as well as directly support their children’s learning and wellbeing. KidsMatter Component 3 focuses on the education setting working closely with parents, carers and families to develop effective partnerships as well as being a source of information and support to the parenting role. Despite the efforts of education settings and families to support children’s mental health and wellbeing, sometimes difficulties will arise and at those times relationships are important to promote early recognition of the difficulties and effective responses. This will include the parents, carers and families working with the education setting staff to develop a plan to support the child. The child and family may also benefit from help from health and community professionals with whom the education setting has developed relationships. 2
  3. 3. It is evident then that relationships play a critical role in the mental health and wellbeing of children. Throughout the framework, KidsMatter harnesses these relationships to bring about the best outcomes for children’s mental health and wellbeing. Appreciating the diversity in the school community to understand the needs of families and partner with them in meaningful ways underpins much of this work. Online spaces Increasingly, children are utilising online spaces for learning and recreation. Data from surveys undertaken by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) (2013) reveals that 98% of children aged between 8 and 11 years have accessed the internet. This is supported by data from teachers, 91.7% of whom reported that in the last 12 months it has been a requirement for students to access the internet at their school (Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 2011). Although computers are usually the source of internet access, it is also accessed by children on handheld mobile devices such as iPads (37% of 8 and 9 year olds and 51% of 10 and 11 year olds), mobile phones (one quarter of 8–11 year olds) and games consoles (12% of 8 and 9 year olds and 23% of 10 and 11 year olds). It is interesting to note some gender differences appearing in the research. For example, boys are more likely to use games consoles than girls (24% compared to 11%). Further, it is evident that some of the social inequities apparent in the face-toface world seem to be replicated in online spaces with children in metropolitan areas and in families with a higher income accessing the internet on a mobile phone more than those from non-metropolitan or lower income families. Similarly, children from households where English is not the main language spoken are less likely to access the internet from mobile phones (20% compared to 45%) (ACMA, 2013). As children become more and more familiar with online spaces, it seems that the adults in their lives are just beginning to make sense of what it all means, including the benefits and risks associated with internet use. A survey undertaken during 2013 by ACMA found that 17% of parents of children aged 8–11 years had no concerns about cybersafety. When parents did report concerns, they were mostly concerned about access to inappropriate material such as adult content and unwanted contact from strangers. In terms of supervision, although 45% of parents of 8 and 9 year olds supervised everything their children did online, only 15% of parents of 12 and 13 year olds did the same (ACMA, 2014). Families look to a range of sources for support about cybersafety including the internet itself (27%) and schools and school websites (13%). 3
  4. 4. It is essential that parents and carers are well equipped with knowledge about cybersafety because children and young people are most likely to turn to them for support about cybersafey issues (78% named parents or other trusted adults) (ACMA, 2014). Teachers, similarly, appear to be starting to make sense of the impact of online environments, particularly as they are engaging with it as a teaching tool but also responding to cybersafety incidents. Teachers reported being very competent (35.2%) or reasonably competent (61.5%) in their internet use. One in four teachers stated that they were very concerned about the risks to students when using the internet in the school environment, with 45.9% fairly concerned. Interestingly, 30% were not very or not at all concerned. It is also useful to note that there were differences in the level of concern depending upon the state or territory the teacher worked in (Iris Research Limited and the Australian Council for Educational Research for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 2011). This could be attributed to differences in awareness raising and policy development work undertaken by school sectors at state and territory levels. Cyberbullying is now an area of emerging need and research. It is a form of bullying that occurs through the use of technologies such as email, social networking websites, text messages and instant messaging. Cyberbullying differs from offline bullying in that the perpetrators can more easily remain anonymous, content can reach a large audience and material can be difficult to remove (DEEWR, 2011). Some interesting statistics in relation to cyberbullying are helpful in gaining an understanding of the similarities and differences between face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying:  83% of students who bully others online also bully others offline.  84% of students who were bullied online were also bullied offline.  Cyberbullying appears to be related to age (or access to technology), with older students more likely to engage in cyberbullying than younger students. (Cross et al., 2009). How can the KidsMatter framework support children, families and education staff as online spaces become more of a part of life, particularly as issues such as cyberbullying arise? KidsMatter provides a framework through which a ‘mental health lens’ is provided for families, education settings and health and community professionals to 4
  5. 5. together promote a safe community and also tackle issues facing children. Within an education setting, it draws upon the research that has shown that a whole-setting approach to mental health is the most effective and sustainable (for example, see Greenberg, et. al. 2003). It is also suggested that a whole-setting approach to cybersafety and understanding the online environment is appropriate (Department of Education, 2014). In ECEC services and schools, the KidsMatter framework provides a multilevel, comprehensive approach to children’s social and emotional development which addresses many of the underlying factors associated with issues such as bullying, whether face-to-face or online. KidsMatter promotes positive school and ECEC environments that provide safety, security and support for children and is underpinned by an understanding that positive relationships are important for development and wellbeing. In this way, respectful understandings of diversity and difference can be fostered in children, and school and ECEC service culture and ethics about the importance of building and maintaining positive relationships is established. KidsMatter also focuses on creating a sense of belonging for all members of the school or ECEC community, including children, families and staff. A positive environment characterised by warm and responsive relationships creates a foundation and culture that makes conflict less likely, as well as provides a platform on which adults can respond to occurrences of conflict (and support children in this process) in a way that minimises the potential for bullying behaviours to occur. KidsMatter also supports staff to become more aware of and responsive to children’s needs, and a positive environment helps children to feel comfortable to approach adults about any problems they may be experiencing. In this way, bullying behaviours can be reduced or the effects minimised through early intervention and responsive action, and strong messages against bullying behaviours are provided consistently across the community. As a whole-setting approach to children’s mental health and wellbeing, the KidsMatter framework supports schools and ECEC services to create environments, whether face-to-face or online, where children:  feel valued and supported  are taught skills for developing and managing relationships, including skills for making good decisions and managing conflict  are taught skills to understand and appropriately express and manage their own emotions  are supported by adults working together 5
  6. 6.  feel able to seek help when things go wrong. While we continue to learn about the impact of online environments and the best ways to support children, families and education staff, KidsMatter can provide a useful framework and resources to ensure that children’s mental health and wellbeing is promoted and mental health difficulties prevented or responded to as early as possible. References Australian Communications and Media Authority. (2014). Connected parents in the cybersafety age. June 2013 snapshot. Australian Communications and Media Authority. (2011). Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media. Bergin, C. & Bergin, D. (2009). Attachment in the classroom. Educational Psychology Review, 21(2), p. 141 – 170. Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009. Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2011). National Safe Schools Framework: Resource manual. Barton, ACT: Commonwealth Government. Accessed 6 May 2013 from http://foi.deewr.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/national_safe_schools_framework_r esource_manual.pdf Department of Education (2014). Cybersmart. Accessed 25 February 2014 from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/ Graetz. B., Littlefield, L., Trinder, M., Dobia, B., Souter, M., Champion. C., Boucher, S., Killick-Moran, C., and Cummings, R. (2008). KidsMatter: A population health model to support student mental health and wellbeing in schools. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 10(4), 13-20. Greenberg, Mark T.; Weissberg, Roger P.; O'Brien, Mary Utne; Zins, Joseph E.; Fredericks, Linda; Resnik, Hank; Elias, Maurice J. (2003). Enhancing schoolbased prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, Vol 58(6-7), 466-474. Iris Research Limited and the Australian Council for Educational Research for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. (2011). Australian Children’s Cyber-safety and E-security. Results of a Teachers’ Survey. 6

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