Writing competition winners see young minds explore cyber security issues

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

When ESET, a global leader in digital security, joined forces with The Big Smoke Media Group, to run a children’s writing competition during October’s Cyber Security Awareness Month, the aim was to create conversations about the need for greater online safety and cyber education.

The winners of that competition – which invited budding creative minds across Australia to explore ways Australia could become the safest cyberspace in the world – were announced this week.

For the three winners, thinking about how to tackle issues of cyber safety and security in a sustainable and effective way meant educating themselves about the issue – and investigating the potential of innovative solutions.

ESET President – Asia Pacific and Japan, Parvinder Walia says the amount – and quality – of submissions received showed him that “we have some incredible minds joining the cyber safety conversation”.

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“As a parent, I’m passionate about providing families with the tools and knowledge they need to ensure a safe online environment for children,” he says. “Congratulations to all the deserving winners, who will no doubt lead the way for Australia to become the safest cyberspace in the world.”

Sharing personal insights into online interactions

Rebecca Li’s story, How to Become a Human Firewall, was the winner in the 13-15-year-old age category and reveals the way children can access the unmonitored world of social media with a few taps on a screen – faking birthdate information to get past the advertised age limit restrictions.

“And it’s a story numerous other kids share, and it’s not one that will die out any time soon. In fact, 45 per cent of surveyed kids under 13 use Facebook daily, and that already extensive number doesn’t even encompass more relevant giants such as TikTok and Snapchat. Unlimited, continuous rolls of unmonitored information,” she writes.

It’s an issue that has been highlighted this week, when academic researchers from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child released their Manifesto for a Better Children’s Internet. Their investigation developed a set of principles to achieve a better Children’s Internet, which they published as a call for action for industry, governments, community leaders, decision-makers, educators, researchers, advocates, parents, and families.

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Creating better protections for children used to breaking through the supposed firewalls in the social media world, writes Miss Li, demands awareness information that ” needs to be more widespread, to be as ubiquitous as ‘slip-slop-slap’ in the form of more frequent and engaging workshops in schools”.

“Take advantage of social media’s prominence and easy shareability by posting cyber safety tips in short-form, animated videos. Social media is no longer just a minor sphere of society intertwined with reality. It is its own world built on GIFs, memes, and slang, with anything online now the equivalent of occurring in person.”

Understanding implications of cyber security

Alexandra Senter, Founder and CEO at The Big Smoke said that she was moved by the tenacity of all the submissions and impressed by the next generation’s understanding of cyber safety and the implications on their lives.

“Running this competition and reading the wonderful submissions, showed me that the next generation is an integral part of that. I’m honoured to help shine a spotlight on these determined young writers.”

The competition was underpinned by a collaborative approach to enhancing online security for children, with partners Next Generation, The CyberPass, Cyber Safety Project, and Internet Safe Education

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The winners of the 2023 Cyber Security Awareness writing competition are:

● Category: 10 – 12 years of age
How to make Australia the Safest Cyber Secure Country in the World by Ashton Phillips
● Category: 13-15 years of age
Becoming a Human Firewall by Rebecca Li
● Category: 16-18 years of age
Making Australia the Safest Cyber Secure Country by Yiyang Yu

Tips for a safer Australia

What preparations should a country make to enhance cybersecurity?

It’s a question the winning writer in the 16-18-year old age range of the competition, Yiyang Yu, attempts to answer.

“The key to cultivating cybersecurity awareness lies in ‘people’, and the focus is on ‘cyber’,” he writes. “Organise cyber safety activities in schools or some public places. Let people learn about cybersecurity at close range. Improving cybersecurity is closely related to the people’s safety. The country needs to pay attention and the people need to take action.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live