Joint media release from Microsoft and the Australian Federal Police

Australian families will be better prepared to protect children from online sex offenders, cyber bullies and scammers with the national rollout of the school-based cyber safety program – ThinkUKnow – launched by Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor in Brisbane today.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Microsoft – with the assistance of new partner ninemsn – are expanding the successful ThinkUKnow program to help educate children throughout Australia about cyber-safety and security and encourage them to think before they act online.

The program involves AFP and Microsoft volunteers providing free interactive training sessions to enable parents, carers and teachers to educate their children about cyber-safety and security.

AFP Commissioner Tony Negus said the Internet is a wonderful tool for both parents and children, but like any other part of life, there are some dangers.

“This program aims to open the lines of communication between parents and children about online safety,” he said.

“The hope is that young people will be confident going to their parents when they have a problem online, and parents will have a better understanding of how to deal with these issues and where they can go for help.

“The AFP will also continue to work closely with industry, government and local and international law enforcement agencies to protect children online through education initiatives and operations against online sex offenders.”

Microsoft’s Chief Security Advisor, Stuart Strathdee, welcomed the national rollout, saying it was an important step towards ensuring the Internet was a safe place for children and families.

“We teach and encourage children to look and listen before crossing the road and the same basic principles apply when it comes to the Internet,” he said.

“Through ThinkUKnow, we’re advising parents, carers and teachers to take an active role in their children’s online lives, just as they would in real life.

“Doing simple things, like having the family computer in the living room instead of in a child’s bedroom, will go a long way in helping create a safe experience.”

Alex Parsons, ninemsn’s Director of Marketing and MSN Products, said the organisation is pleased to be working with the AFP and Microsoft on the ThinkUKnow program.

“At ninemsn, we place immense importance on providing our community with positive and responsible online experiences. The ThinkUKnow program provides just that through invaluable seminars that help bridge the generational knowledge-gap that exists in the online world,” he said.

“With more than seven million Australians using Windows Live each month, it is important for us to be leaders and advocates in online safety.

“The ThinkUKnow program is one way we can act at a very grass roots level and use our knowledge and resources to help share messages of online safety.

“We also look forward to using ninemsn’s vast network to help spread the word about ThinkUKnow to the wider Australian community.”

The program is already operating in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. Today’s launch at Brisbane’s Ithaca Creek State School marks the start of plans by the AFP, Microsoft and ninemsn to roll out the program in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory throughout 2010.

The credentials of ThinkUKnow have been supported by a 2009 evaluation of the pilot, which identified strong support for the program and the empowering knowledge it provides. This includes how to report online sexual exploitation, inappropriate content, cyber bullying, spam, scams and advice on other safety and security issues.

The ThinkUKnow program originated in the UK and was founded by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

For further information and resources on the ThinkUKnow initiative or to register your school for a presentation, go to www.thinkuknow.org.au.