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1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental ill-health, but many do not seek help due to stigma. 

October is Mental Health Month, an awareness month that encourages us to think about our mental health and wellbeing, break down the stigma around mental ill-health and increase help-seeking behaviours in our communities. 

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Cybercrime is an issue that affects all Australians and can have a huge financial and emotional cost to individuals, businesses and society. 

The risk of cybercrime is rising every day, and is an issue for people of all ages, including children and young people.

Stay Smart Online Week, which runs from 7-13th of October this year, is a national awareness-raising week hosted by the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Government that encourages all Australians to take active steps to protect themselves online. The message this year is 'Together, we can reverse the threat of cybercrime', which encourages us to see the problem as something that affects everyone and therefore needs to be addressed by everyone. 

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The online world can be an exciting, empowering and challenging place. Cyber safety education is essential if we want to create a more positive future for young people. 

The 2019 eSafety Conference was held in Sydney in September. Hosted by The Office of the eSafety Commissioner and Netsafe New Zealand, eSafety 2019 was an opportunity for the world’s foremost academics, industry leaders, educators, policy makers and young people to come together and discuss the biggest online safety issues of our time. The focus of this year’s event was on working together to create an online world that is positive, inclusive and safe for everyone.

Posted by on in Student Wellbeing Articles

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We can all feel down, stressed or lonely at different times in our lives. Depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions can affect anyone. But for many of us, putting our hand up and asking for help can be incredibly difficult. It is therefore important for the whole community to know the signs that someone is struggling and know how to offer support. 

On Thursday 12th of September, individuals, schools, workplaces and communities across Australia got behind R U OK?Day. Whether it was a morning tea, a sausage sizzle, a school assembly or a fundraiser, R U OK?Day sparked discussions about mental health and the importance of having regular, meaningful conversations with the people around us.

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We can all make a difference in the lives of those who might be struggling by having regular, meaningful conversations about life's challenges.

Every year R U OK? run a campaign in the lead up to R U OK?Day, which is held on the second Thursday in September each year. This year R U OK? have launched the ‘Trust the Signs’ campaign, which aims to give everyone in the community skills to notice when someone needs support and the confidence to start a conversation that could change a life.

The message is simple: if you think something’s not quite the same with someone you know - there’s something going on in their life or you notice a change in what they’re doing or saying - trust your gut instinct, and take the time to reach out and start a conversation.

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Adolescence is a period of immense physical and emotional vulnerability. For most of us vulnerability has negative connotations – we see it as a weakness and something we should try to avoid. Vulnerability is defined as being easily hurt, influenced or attacked, so it makes sense that we try to avoid it at all costs!

On the other hand, vulnerability is necessary for meaningful human connection. It is the foundation upon which healthy relationships are built

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Screen time is a major concern for many parents. Children are learning to use digital devices from a young age and primary school students regularly use technology for entertainment and to socialise with their friends. The latest Child Health Poll found that one-third of Australian pre-schoolers, two-thirds of primary school children and almost all teenagers own their own tablet or smart phone.

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The popularity of digital and online games is rapidly increasing, and it doesn't look like slowing down! Not only are more people playing games, but they’re also watching other people play through live streaming and esport tournaments. 

Many parents and teachers are concerned by the fervour surrounding games like Fortnite and the increasing use of games among primary school students. But no matter how you feel about gaming, there's one thing you can be sure of: gaming is here to stay.

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We need to have more conversations with young people about mental health.

In the 2017 Mission Australia Youth Survey Report, mental health was rated by young people as the most important issue affecting Australia today [1]. While the majority of young people reported feeling optimistic about the future, they also saw mental health as one of the major barriers to achieving their work and study goals. 

Issues like anxiety, depression and substance misuse can have a devastating effect on individuals and communities, and if not addressed early, can impact on a young person’s ability to work, socialise and function throughout their life. 

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Humans are hard-wired to pay attention to the negative. This ‘negativity bias’ is an ancient survival tool that helps us remain vigilant and respond to threats in our environment. Parents, caregivers and teachers will know this bias all too well, often finding themselves honing in on children’s shortcomings and pointing out the behaviours they need to change. This is a normal human response – we do it because we want children to stay safe and do well in the world!

But in the process we can forget to acknowledge their strengths. 

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As teachers we often get stuck. The busyness of teaching, the marking, administration and preparation can often leave you feeling as if your creativity has run dry and you are at a loss for a new, engaging way to teach a concept. I have found this especially to be the case when I have had to develop lessons about ‘big’ issues such as bullying, choices, healthy relationships and cyber safety. These are conceptual, sometimes abstract, life topics; topics very different to the more concrete maths and sciences. So I'm always looking for innovative and creative ways to teach these topics, and practical resources to support this. 

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Our privacy is valuable. And now, more than ever, we need to protect it.

As a society, we are beginning to understand the consequences of sharing our personal information online. We are becoming increasingly concerned with how our data is being used and misused.

Advances in technology present new risks to our privacy and security. Spam, scams, identity theft and fraud are just some of the risks we face when we use our devices.

Privacy Awareness Week runs from the 13th to the 19th of May this year. It provides an opportunity to reflect on how we share and manage our personal data. The aim is to shine a spotlight on the issue of privacy, and to remind us that privacy does matter.

With this awareness has come growing concern for the privacy of children and young people online. So how do we keep them safe?

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Something happens when we go to school. Yes, we learn to read, we learn to write, to count, we learn about history, geography, languages, how our world works - all wondrous, valuable things. 

We also learn, very quickly, that learning is measured and should be tested, constantly. We learn that data drives schools and policies, and that one’s worth is often tied up in those final results. And in that, we lose our sense of play, of discovery, of creativity. Ken Robinson, in his seminal Ted Talk Do Schools Kill Creativity?, argues that our schooling systems are "educating people out of their creative capacities" and that we are not only growing out of our creativity, but "we get educated out of it’".  

Alongside this, schools are becoming increasingly aware of the need to nurture and implement wellbeing programs that foster agency, resilience and self-management strategies. When children are a part of a system, however, how can we do this?

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Friday the 16th of March is 2018 National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. This is a day for school communities to take a stand together, and demonstrate their commitment to creating a safe and supportive environment for all students. 

The Australian government is getting behind this initiative, in response to growing concern about the devastating impact of bullying on children and teens. This week Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham wrote a letter to every principal in the country, urging them to join the national effort against bullying and violence in schools. 

And the spotlight isn't only on schools - in recent weeks attention has been turned towards abuse and harassment occurring within Australian universities. 

It is clear that bullying is now on the national agenda.

So where do we go from here?

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On 6th February 2018 Brainstorm Productions celebrated Safer Internet Day, a worldwide event that is coordinated by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in Australia. 

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Transitions are a normal part of development, and will be experienced by all children at some point in their lives. Some transitions are planned, others are sudden and unexpected. And as we head into the new school year, most kids will be preparing for some kind of transition, whether that be the start of kindergarten, the transition to high school, adjustment to a new year level, or the move to a new school.

Posted by on in Cyber Safety Articles

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Summer holidays are kicking off around Australia, which means students will have more free time to play and have fun in the sun. 

But school holidays can be a difficult time for some kids. Changes to routine and being away from their usual school supports can cause them to feel stressed, down or lonely. Holidays can be a particularly vulnerable time for students whose families are struggling with grief, loss, poverty or family violence.

School holidays also mean more time spent online.

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Year 12 exams are nearly over, which means school leavers are letting their hair down and starting to celebrate. Schoolies events are on the radar of parents and teachers, and Year 11 students may be starting to plan their own celebrations for next year. Preparation is key, so it's a good time to start having conversations about the good, the bad and the ugly of the Australian Schoolies ritual.

Schoolies events are viewed by many as a rite of passage for adolescents, marking their transition into adulthood, greater independence, and a highly-anticipated life after twelve years of schooling. The event is seen as an opportunity to unwind after exams, have fun with friends, build new relationships, and create shared memories [1]. Research also shows, however, that excessive alcohol consumption is considered by many adolescents to be an integral part of the Schoolies experience [1, 2]. 

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In recent years we've seen greater acceptance and communication around the topic of mental health. We've also seen a growing number of initiatives aimed at reducing stigma and increasing support for people who are struggling with mental health issues.

During the month of October, communities across NSW will come together and hold events to celebrate Mental Health Month, which coincides with World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October. This year the focus is on sharing the journey: promoting positive social connections to help people cope with mental health issues, build resilience, and improve their wellbeing.

Bullying, and in particular cyberbullying, can have a serious impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. Students involved in cyberbullying have poorer mental wellbeing [1], and higher levels of anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, and substance abuse [2]. 

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