Vanessa Amorosi Make Cyberspace a Better Place Interview
Australian singer and Kids Helpline patron Vanessa Amorosi is backing a Kids Helpline and Optus initiative to improve the online safety of young people around the nation.
Ms Amorosi joined Kids Helpline and Optus representatives to talk about The Make Cyberspace a Better Place education packs, aimed at teaching young people about internet safety.
Kids Helpline General Manager Wendy Protheroe said every Australian school has started the year equipped with the education packs, which feature a series of lesson plans and resources teachers can use to help students make safer choices online.
"We're calling on teachers around the nation to embrace Safer Internet Day on Tuesday (February 7) and use these packs as a way to start discussions about cyber safety," Ms Protheroe said.
"We developed the packs in conjunction with our partner, Optus, to increase young people's awareness and understanding about cyberbullying, sexting and general online safety.
"It is wonderful that Vanessa, who has had a long relationship with Kids Helpline and is passionate about children's safety issues, is helping us raise awareness about this 21st century issue.
"Each year Kids Helpline conducts about 2,400 counselling sessions in which young people are worried about bullying, cyberbullying or harassment and we know that cyberbullying impacts on self-confidence, self-esteem, friendships, school grades and family relationships."
Ms Amorosi, who was bullied as a teenager, is committed to initiatives that educate and empower young people to make safer and wiser choices. "Young people today spend a huge amount of time interacting with people in online communities and many don't think of potential safety issues," Ms Amorosi said.
"Bullying has always been a problem but when it spills into the internet there is no escaping it.
"I think it is important for young people to know there are resources they can access and strategies they can implement to manage cyberbullying, to remain safe in cyberspace and to rise above the bullies."
Optus Group Manager of Sponsorship and Community Programs, Jann Kohlman, said for the last 11 years Optus and Kids Helpline had worked together to help connect young people to essential counselling services.
"While communications technology opens up a world of exciting possibilities, Optus is committed to preventing its misuse and ensuring young Australians stay cyber-safe," Ms Kohlman said.
"Connecting people is what we do best and this cyber-safety education pack is just one way we can help ensure that young Australians connect and communicate responsibly."
The education packs, which target years 3-6, 7-9 and 10-12, have been sent to all schools and can be downloaded from the Kids Helpline website at www.kidshelp.com.auQuestion:
What is the Make Cyberspace a Better Place campaign?Vanessa Amorosi
: Kids Helpline and Optus have created the Make Cyberspace a Better Place campaign which is a package containing a USB stick which has gone out to every school. The USB stick contains lesson plans so teachers can look and then educate kids about what happens with cyberbullying and everything that's on the web. The information also goes home with the kids, as well.
The Make Cyberspace a Better Place campaign package is very educational and contains a lot of advice for parents as well as kids. The campaign is launched on Tuesday the 7th of February because that's Internet Safety day. Question:
How can parents be involved with the Make Cyberspace a Better Place campaign?Vanessa Amorosi
: Kids can bring the activities home whilst parents can have a look at the Make Cyberspace a Better Place website: www.kidshelp.com.au/grownups/getting-help/cyberspace/
. The website has a lot of information for parents if they are searching for answers or feel that their child is being bullied.Question:
Why did you choose to join forces with Kids Helpline and Optus to launch the Make Cyberspace a Better Place campaign?Vanessa Amorosi
: I have been a part of Kids Helpline since I was 13, as soon as I had my first single out, I joined Kids Help Line to try and help get Kids Helpline out into the public, as much as I could. The main reason I joined Kids Helpline is because I got bullied, nonstop. I believe that Kids Helpline is a very useful resource which is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. When you're calling Kids Helpline, it is confidential and you can create a relationship with somebody and always speak with that particular person.
Kids Helpline lets you know that you're not alone and that everybody deals with the exact same thing. Even the 'popular' people who are bullying you are being bullied, themselves. Question:
Can you talk about being a victim of bullies?Vanessa Amorosi
: I was bullied way before I had any success in the music industry, I was bullied because that's what kids do to make themselves feel comfortable or to survive whatever they're not surviving with, at the time.
Bullying is almost human nature. What has progressed over the years is that now we have the web and all this wonderful technology that now comes home with you, so not only do go to school and have six hours of that, if you are being bullied, you also get targeted out of hours. Bullying can be with you 24/7 and its scary stuff. Question:
What advice do you have to share with children, who are being severely bullied?Vanessa Amorosi
: I was a country girl who lived in a town with a population of 100 people and there was a lot of bullying that happened in the town and who would have ever thought through all of that, that I would end up here - I travel the world, I write songs and make records, people love me (of course there are people that still hate me). But, I was able to overcome the bullying and all of that, to grow to the person that I am today.
No matter who you are, where you live, where you're coming from - do what you love doing and the rest of it will be history! You will not remember the bullies as you get older. There are so many other great things to be positive about, you don't need to focus on the negative.Question:
What online safety tips do you have for kids who are being cyberbullied?Vanessa Amorosi
: What helped me through a lot of it was knowing that I wasn't special, that everybody was being bullied in some way. I often thought that I was the only one that people had negative thoughts about that wanted to write it on websites or had different options of what I was about or they thought I was this or that
Knowing that there were other artists and children at my age that had the exact same thing going on made me think 'I should really get over it because others have had the same thing said about them, obviously it's normal'.
There are some things that happen that you don't really want to talk to your parents about and it definitely helps to call Kids Helpline because it's confidential. If there are things around you that you don't want anyone to know, even your friends, you can call Kids Helpline for advice and see if there is a way to stop something that is happening or prevent it from happening, again. Question:
How do you feel about the 'sexting' craze and what advice do you have for teenagers?Vanessa Amorosi
: Kids Helpline has a lot of advice in regards to 'sexting'. For me personally, I try and think about the future. If you are about to do something like that, you need to think about what you're going to gain, in the future. Is the person you are 'sexting' going to stay in your life forever? You can't answer that question, you have no idea because we all evolve and change so much over time.
Before sending photographs of yourself naked and doing those types of things, thinking it's just between you and the person you're sending them too, or the person you're in love with, remember that life changes and we all go to different places and you may not be in love with that person in five to six years.
You never know when relationships will end and you may have a bad break up and people may do things to hurt you and then that is something that you would have to live with, for the rest of your life. Naked photos are leaked for so many people, nowadays, it is so, so common - even famous stars! It happens in everybody's life so you need to think a little harder, than you normally would, before you do it! Question:
What's next for you?Vanessa Amorosi
: I am constantly writing music, I am heavily into production and I have just been touring nonstop - I am wrapping up a tour at the moment. Then I will be heading back to American to continue production and writing records. I have three of my own studios, one in Australia, one in America and one in Europe; I do spend a lot of time, in the states.
Interview by Brooke Hunter