New AFP children’s book ‘changes the game’ for online safety

Editor’s note: Images and audio recording from the press conference are available via Hightail

The AFP has unveiled a new children’s picture book to support parents, carers and educators to talk to children about online safety, as students prepare to return to the classroom for 2023.

The first-of-its-kind picture book ’Jack Changes the Game’, written by Tess Rowley and illustrated by Shannon Horsfall, has been developed by the AFP’s ThinkUKnow program, in partnership with the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) .

The book is based on a real report to the ACCCE and gives age-appropriate advice on how to recognise online child sexual exploitation, including online grooming, and how to take action and make a report to police.

In the book, Jack meets a new online friend called ‘Footy Boy’ through his favourite game. But soon, ‘Footy Boy’ starts asking for things that make Jack feel uneasy and he begins to wonder if his new friend is the person he claims to be.

With the support of his sister and friend, Jack finds the courage to tell his parents and together they make a report to the ACCCE and implement online safety measures at home.

AFP acting Assistant Commissioner Hilda Sirec said the book was a powerful resource and one that will help families around Australia begin important conversations.

“Around half of parents and carers regularly talk to their child about online safety. With children spending more time online, it’s important we teach them about safe practices and encourage help seeking behaviours,” acting Assistant Commissioner Sirec said.

Jack Changes the Game has been created as a resource to start conversations with 5 to 8 year olds in a simple, yet effective way,” acting Assistant Commissioner Sirec said.

Players from the WNBL team, the UC Capitals, Alex Bunton and Britt Smart were on hand to officially launch the book at the University of Canberra today. 

“The UC Capitals are proud to support the AFP at the launch of their children’s book, ‘Jack Changes the Game’,” said a UC Capitals spokesperson.

“The UC Capitals are a family friendly club and we are fortunate enough to connect with a lot of young fans at our games. They’ve become our second family and we hope this book can help educate them, and all children, about online safety.” 

A reference group comprising four of Australia’s leading experts in education and child protection was engaged to provide subject matter expertise and guidance on the development of the book.

Professor Kerryann Walsh from the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at the Queensland University of Technology said that children’s books were an effective education tool.

“One of the great things about children’s picture books is that they involve adults and children in a shared reading experience where everyone can learn about new things together.”

Jack Changes the Game provides adults with very useful tips on how to talk to children about online safety and in particular, about online grooming.”

Dr Andrea Baldwin, Service Development Leader at the Queensland Centre for Perinatal & Infant Mental Health, said that stories about children are a great way to engage children.

“Jack learns to cope with a threatening situation and to put trust in his family, the police and other adults. Unfortunately children Jack’s age are a target and there aren’t many resources around empowering children themselves to stay safe online.”

Professor Susan Edwards, Director Early Childhood Futures at the Australian Catholic University, said Jack Changes the Game is a much needed book and important resource for children, families and schools.

“We know that children are active on the internet and we know that as adults we really should do our very best to support and educate them around the practices that will help keep them safe.”

Survivor of child sexual abuse, author and advocate Kelly Humphries said the book was an intervention for young children at a key age.  

“It is an opportunity. A vessel for parents, teachers, caregivers, or anyone to have these tough conversations through a non-confrontational, relatable medium.”

Jack Changes the Game forms part of a complete ThinkUKnow learning package that includes at home learning for parents and carers, and a teacher’s toolkit and student activity pack to reinforce key concepts from the book.

These resources and an eBook of Jack Changes the Game are available at thinkuknow.org.au

Every primary school in Australia has received a printed book to share within their school community.

“I am pleased to announce today that this resource has now been delivered to every primary school in Australia. I hope that Jack Changes the Game helps school communities across Australia to start a conversation about being safe online,” said acting Assistant Commissioner Sirec.

The resource was developed with funding from the AFP Innovation Fund.

From today, the AFP will release seven days of back-to-school safety tips to help parents, carers and students stay a step ahead of online child sex offenders and be safe online.

The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping online child sexual exploitation and abuse, and the ACCCE is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child exploitation.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

An award-winning podcast launched in 2021 by the ACCCE titled 'Closing The Net' is working to change that, showcasing that knowledge is power and that our only chance to help prevent this issue is if we bring a 'whole-of-community' response.

The podcast series offers valuable tips and advice on how to keep kids safe online. Listen to the Closing The Net podcast on your favourite streaming platform.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available at www.accce.gov.au/support.

Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

Note to media:

Use of term 'CHILD ABUSE' MATERIAL NOT 'CHILD PORNOGRAPHY'

The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.

Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:

  • indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
  • conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.

Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.

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