Australian Federal Police and CommBank ink Internet safety agreement

Police report a 54 per cent increase in child exploitation online over the past year

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Commonwealth Bank volunteers nationwide are stepping up the fight against online bullying and child exploitation by educating parents, teachers and community members about cyber safety for kids.

The three-year agreement – announced at Sydney’s Malabar Public School by the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan – is part of the ‘ThinkUKnow’ program launched in 2009. Since then, around 400 trainers – law enforcement officers and staff at founding partners Datacom and Microsoft – have delivered education sessions for 37,000 people.

The AFP said that since June 2014, around 463,000 or 20 per cent of young Australians aged between 8 and 17 have been victims of cyberbullying. There has also been a 54 per cent increase in reports of child exploitation online over the past financial year, according to the AFP.

Children are engaging with friends and followers on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Kik, and 95 per cent of children now use the Internet regularly with eight-year-olds online daily.

David Whiteing, CIO at Commonwealth Bank, told CIO Australia that the program was set up so that any bank staff member can be involved. He said that while CBA had not set a target for staff recruitment for the program, the bank had trained 15 staff so far to help with the program. Security professionals inside the bank are providing some of the content.

“You don’t need to have a technology background to be involved in it. The idea is that it’s open to whoever wants to [participate].

“It’s like all volunteer programs in the Commonwealth Bank, it’s one where we want people to self-select; we want them to do stuff that really is important to them, that matters to them and is part of their community.

“All the people that have been trained and delivered the course have really been quite energised by it and there will be a network effect that comes off that,” he said.

Whiteing said that we are moving away from a world where the connections he had as a youngster were limited to how far he could ride his bicycle to one where you can sit in your living room and access people thousands of kilometres away.

“It’s very difficult for parents and teachers to know how that interaction is happening – where it is occurring and what it means," he said. "This program is a big part of helping with that ... it provides an environment for them to educate their children on how to remain safe and it creates some techniques around how you might have a conversation [with your kids] when things aren't going well."

Whiteing said the increasing level of business activity occurring through digital channels means that the community as a whole needs to be more proficient in technology.

"I'm fortunate that I work in an industry where I test technology every day but even I get surprised at least once a week by some of the stuff my kids teach me about what they've done," he said. "It's most good and most amusing, but sometimes I'm going, 'where did that come from?'"

More than 60 per cent of the bank's online interactions happen on a smartphone, he said.

Read more: Datacom reports ‘excellent performance’, appoints Theresa Eyssens as CEO for Australia

"That gives you a sense of how fast the world is changing and how quickly we see things changing in our business. Our prediction is that in 10 to 20 years from now, most interactions will be exclusively through a mobile phone," he said.

The ThinkUKnow brand was originally created by the Child Exploitation Centre, a division of the National Crime Agency in the UK, and is licenced in Australia by the AFP. It is delivered in partnership with Neighbourhood Watch Australasia, and state and territory police.

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Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter:@ByronConnolly

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