Protect-A-Child offers an innovative technological solution to the growing problem of cyber-bullying
With the internet, smartphones and social networking sites, children and young people are entrenched in a digital world. These technologies can be invaluable assets to a child’s learning and development as they provide no shortage of interesting information from around the globe with just the click of a mouse or a tap of a touch screen. However these technologies also make children more susceptible to what can be described as bullying of the 21st century.
Cyber-bullying is the act of using the internet, email and text messages to harm other people in a deliberate, repeated and hostile manner. This risky behaviour can be damaging to a child’s state of mind and can result in a child no longer feeling safe in what should be a comforting and welcoming environment. In January last year alone, Victorian schoolgirl Sheniz Erkan took her life after being a victim of both cyber and schoolyard bullying.
In 2012 Protect-a-Child successfully delivered an innovative technological solution to the growing problem of cyber-bullying. The first of its kind, the cloud-based tool allows parents to monitor their child’s activity across various social media networks and alerts them to any potential cyber-bullying risks. Operating via a database of recognised keywords, and fully customisable in terms of severity, the system notifies parents of any inappropriate or abusive language as well as any attempt at coded conversations that could indicate cyber-bullying.
The Community Crowd Protection (CCP) feature prompts parents to verify the true identity of any new individual that their child connects with on social media. Working as an online ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ scheme, the CCP feature makes these verifications visible to all PAC subscribers, so should another child connect to the individual, parents can rest assured that the verified connection is a legitimate peer.
PAC Founder and CEO, Jason Edwards, believes that the launch of the tool and its development throughout 2012 sees a real breakthrough in the fight against cyber-bullying.
“We believe that through technology, we have produced a product that can arm parents with the tools required to protect their children from the agony of cyber-bullying,” says Mr Edwards. “PAC will pick up any words and images that relate to bullying, drugs, alcohol and depression while the CCP feature gives parents the power to decipher unknown people.
“These days’ children see having a large amount of friends on social networking sites as a competition and are innocently letting strangers into their lives. You can lock your house up as tight as you like, but your children may be unknowingly inviting strangers into your home.”
PAC provides real-time awareness while safeguarding the privacy of their children. It does not hack or violate the privacy of children but rather works as a search tool that analyses posts and provides parents with accurate awareness of the existence of content that can be harmful to their child’s safety, reputation, or standing in the community.
“It is important for parents to understand that we are not the sole answer to this issue,” says Mr Edwards. “In order for PAC to work there needs to be 40 per cent implementation, 40 per cent communication and 20 per cent product. Tackling this issue is about partnership and trust between the parent and the child – the child needs consent for the product to be used.”
PAC is currently working with internet Safety experts Brett Lee and Susan Hall to create website content for those parents and teachers. They have also partnered up with not-for-profit Australian anti-bullying organisation Angels Goal to combat the issue of bullying in schools.
For more information of Protect-a-Child visit www.protectachild.com.au.
Image: Geelong Grammar School