Dealing with separation anxiety in early learning settings.

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Attending an early learning centre is an important and exciting stage in any child’s personal development. It’s a chance for them to interact with other children and educators in a fun and safe learning environment.

Most children embrace this time with enthusiasm but some feel afraid and anxious. Separation anxiety is normal and usually starts around six months of age and lasts until about two and a half to four years. It can last longer but will generally settle down as your child become more confident in their changing environment.

Behavior to Look Out For

When a child is anxious about their parents or caregiver’s departure they express it in a number of different ways. Signs to be aware of include:  

  • visibly upset and will cry or call out as parent leaves;
  • physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea or tummy aches;
  • appear nervous, restless, clingy, quiet or withdrawn;
  • refuses to go to childcare.

How can you help a child overcome their separation fears?

It’s an emotional issue for both the child and the caregiver. Remember though, all children have to learn to deal with separation at some point.  If their first separations are managed well, it can help them later in life as they learn to cope with challenging separation situations. Here are some helpful tips and advice to consider:

  • Encourage parents to visit the Centre with their child before they start. Keep their first few days short and build up the hours that they go there over time. They need to know that they are being left in a safe place with a trustworthy person. Try keep your staffing consistent at morning drop offs, so children can learn to trust their educators at drop off time – a time when they feel very vulnerable.
  • Be clear about the process, before you attempt it. Communication is important. Parents should tell the child when they are leaving and when they will return. Communicate with the child in a way they understand (“2.30pm” doesn’t mean anything to a child who can’t tell the time)! Tell the child when their parent will come back to collect them in ways that they understand. eg. “after your lunch”. Consistency is also key. If the educator is communicating the same things as the parent, it really helps the little person trust what is being said.
  • Many educators advocate a ‘drop and run’ approach, however this doesn’t need to be done in a clandestine way. Sneaking out when their child is distracted can make things worse. Your child might feel confused or upset when they realise that you are not around, and be more difficult to settle the next time you leave.
  • Have a selection of enticing activities ready in the morning. Activities which don’t require socialisation are useful for shy children who find engaging with their piers confronting. Physical activities are also utterly absorbing for some children and having an assortment will stand you in good stead.
  • Gently encourage your child to separate by giving them some playful practice. Suggest playing Peek-a-Boo and Hide-and-Seek at home. This helps them to learn that you always come back.
  • Let them take something they love from home to make them feel safe, such as a teddy bear, pillow or blanket. These objects can be gradually phased out as they become more settled in their new environment.
  • Parents should keep a relaxed and happy expression when leaving a child. 
  • Encourage parents to speak to you about a child’s anxiety when separating at drop off and anything that they are doing to help them. This ensures that other people in the child’s environment can give consistent support.
  • No matter how frustrated you feel, avoid criticising or being negative about a child’s difficulty with separation. Foster their self-esteem by giving them lots of positive attention and reassurance.
  • Have group discussions, read books or make up stories with children about their separation fears – for example, ‘Once upon a time, there was a little bunny who didn’t want to leave her mummy in the hutch. She was afraid of what she might find outside …’. This helps your child feel that they are not alone in being afraid of separating from their parents.

Further reading:

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/about-behaviour/being-apart/understanding-and-managing-separation-distress

http://ncac.acecqa.gov.au/educator-resources/pcf-articles/Positive_goodbyes_Dec09.pdf

http://www.today.com/parents/separation-anxiety-19-ways-ease-your-child-s-fears-so-t74826

http://aussiechildcarenetwork.com.au/articles/child-behaviour/separation-anxiety-in-children

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Birthday Parties without Allergy Worries

Birthday parties are special occasions in a child’s life, and it is really important to celebrate them. BUT the thought of homemade cakes entering a room where children suffer from serious allergies can make educators tremble!

Here are a few simple ideas for celebrating student birthdays in the classroom.

popcorn balls

1/ Alternatives to cake.

If there are children in the class who have food allergies, why not consider alternative allergy friendly options such as a watermelon cake. We love this one! https://petitworldcitizen.com/2014/08/13/a-little-cake-for-two/

Another great alternative are popcorn balls (shown above) courtesy of http://livingtheallergiclife.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/popcorn-balls-dairy-free-egg-free.html.

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2/ Party Bags

Kids adore party bags and handing out a special treat to the class makes a birthday person feel very special and teaches them to share. Pack party bags with pencils, erasers, stickers and other simple treats that young children enjoy receiving. (image found on Pinterest)

3/ Get Physical

Early learning children should be encouraged to be active from a young age because physical activities encourage a health lifestyle and are excellent for self esteem. Let the birthday child choose a party game for the children to play at break time, such as What’s the Time Mr. Wolf, musical chairs, an egg relay race or a fun obstacle course.

4/ Lucky Birthday Dip

Buy a selection of inexpensive gifts for your local dollar store and wrap them in different coloured tissue paper. Place the gifts into a basket and allow the student to choose a gift.

5/ Birthday Box

Cover a shoe box with wrapping paper and a bow on the top. When the students enter the classroom have each child make the birthday girl or boy a card that goes inside the box. At the end of the day when it’s time to celebrate give the student their birthday box filled with their special cards.

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6/ Host a Craft Activity

Instead of bringing in cakes, ask the child’s parent to host a simple craft activity to celebrate a child’s birthday. For example, little flower pots with a bit of soil in them and plant a seed so each child can grow their own plant. (Image – http://www.sugartot.net/my-blog/2013/03/easter-flower-pots.html /

7/ Birthday Shirt

Bring in a plain white t-shirt and fabric paint or markers and get each child in the class to sign it with their name and a birthday wish as memento of their special day.

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8/ Wear a crown for the day

It is a very simple idea but get the birthday child to wear a handmade crown, party hat or birthday badge during the day. Party hats add an air of celebration and makes the child feel super special!

9/ Birthday Books

Create a special birthday program where parents donate a book to the centres’ library. Educators can celebrate the child’s generosity by putting a simple note inside the book that indicates who gave the book. This fosters a love for reading and children will love it when their teacher reads their birthday book to the class.

10/ Treasure Hunt

Arrange a treasure hunt around the classroom or playground for the children. Provide the students with clues so they can find a special allergy-safe treat at the end for the whole class to enjoy. You can even use a theme that ties into what they are currently learning in class.

11/ Sing Happy Birthday

And finally don’t forget to sing Happy Birthday to the special boy or girl.

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Chairman’s Message

slide-12-brendon-1577Brendon Blakemore, Chairman of ELC Systems Pty Ltd

 

JourneyTree is a progressive platform dedicated to providing a solution to some of the time-consuming reporting obligations required of the early learning sector. With over 16,000 early learning services reported to be operating in Australia today, the early learning environment is one that sorely needs some assistance to alleviate the workforce drain experienced in meeting national standards and reporting obligations.

Providing a sustainable solution to this workforce is a pressing need. I feel the industry demands a system which is reliable, easy to use, visually appealing and offers significant real-world benefits to end users and ultimately the children in their care.

As an Australian company we have invested significant resources into developing a custom designed system for Australian educators. Our developers are based here, and our team is on the ground consulting with educators, industry leaders and organisations across the nation. We believe it is the only way to get a comprehensive view of the way this sector works and its pressing needs.

We hear the cry far and wide, of educators extending their working hours into home time to cater for their reporting. We hear directors and their plea for a system where they can get a birds eye view of their staff’s reporting, teaching, and framework compliance so that they can run their businesses more efficiently. We listen to parents wanting to know what’s happening with their child’s progress and education, without having to navigate to online blogs, retrieve lost emails, or pin 10 notices to the fridge door.

Clearly the problem is one of communication.

I’m happy to say that JourneyTree goes a long way to helping this dilemma. Communication flows between parents and staff and back again. Directors have the records they need and reduce their liability by being more accountable for their staff. Educators can use the platform on the go, reducing the volume of deskwork. As we progress with the development, you will see JourneyTree become a standout performer in the industry – a tool that fits snuggly into an educators domain and helps with so many tasks.

Our anticipated release in 2015 was delayed following market research which demanded specific reporting features for centre directors. We decided to delay our market release in order to obtain resources to produce a state-of-the-art system, including a directors dashboard, which meets and exceeds current market needs. We are focused on delivering a sustainable platform which will stay the course – for now and into the future.

I am very pleased to report that in 2016 we have succeeded in securing the required resources and are committed to a high intensity development program which will see the JourneyTree platform delivered and performing in the marketplace this year.

As JourneyTree progresses, we will continue to liaise with Australian industry stakeholders to obtain vital feedback. We are listening to you. This product is ‘home grown’. We’ve planted the seed… by nurturing it, JourneyTree will always provide an experience which plays a vital role in the development of children’s education, every single day and every single minute they attend a learning facility.

Thank you for your support to date and we look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Brendon Blakemore

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7 signs your childcare brand needs some TLC

How is your centre’s brand doing?

Our branding team say that a brand is very much like a person. Look at it like an additional staff member, responsible for communicating everything about your business to the outside world. When was the last time you gave this ‘staff’ member a workplace review… Is it being lazy? Not working properly? Just along for the staff drinks on a Friday? Do you need to give it the sack and find a more professional replacement? Or perhaps it needs a raise?

When you look at a brand like this, the invisible aspects of branding become easier to assess. Once you have assessed where your brand is positioning itself, and how, you can then formulate a plan of attack to position yourself better and improve virtually every aspect of your business.

Here are 7 signs your childcare brand needs some attention…

  1. Customers refer to your business by its location, not its name.

    Are you “the childcare centre down Fairy Lane Rd” or “it’s the centre next to Aldi”? This kind of language indicates that your brand is not being referred to by name. Oh dear. All that work deciding your name and nobody knows or cares to remember it. It’s a sure sign your name is not being associated with your service and that is a branding boo-boo!

  2. You wonder if you have a cone of silence around communications!

    Do you find you have to send multiple notifications about the same thing, find that nobody responds to your emails, nobody visits your website, basic rules and regulations are not understood, communication channels are multiple and varied. You have more signage than a shopping centre and still… People. Don’t. Get. It! If you are wondering about the intelligence of your customers, or if you speak a foreign language… stop! Your brand’s communication is not working.

  3. You feel like your image is stuck in the 80s.

    Does your signage look tired, and no amount of painting touch ups will help it. Does it look like an 80 year old doing fancy dress on bingo day. Drab? Gaudy? Too busy? Take a good hard look at your brand’s personality (the kind of look you get in a swimsuit changeroom – you know, the ones with the mirrors and lights you hate!) and try imagine what kind of a stereotype it would match. Who is it? What does it look like? Are you an edgy twenty year old? Or a teen? Corporate goddess? Domestic frump? It helps to characterise brands to get a handle on where you are and where you need to be.

  4. You have no word of mouth referrals.

    Generally, a business with a thriving brand experiences strong word of mouth referrals. It should be your strongest marketing arm and a really good indication of how well your brand is doing in your industry.

  5. Your price point doesn’t reflect your service quality.

    You work your fingers to the bone, you care and are passionate about your business, you are great at what you do and yet, you feel like nobody fully appreciates you and you aren’t charging what you’re worth. This is a branding issue. Good branding can raise the impression of value for a business and facilitate appropriate charging. Louis Vuitton handbags are in themselves no more functional than Guess bags, they carry goodies, they come in different colours and fabrics… it is the Louis Vuitton brand that sets it apart as a sophisticated luxury item. This allows them to charge many times the cost of a company like Guess.

  6. Staff don’t seem proud to walk in the door. Their uniforms look shabby. They have a careless attitude about grooming. Their workspace looks unkept.

    Alarm bells should be ringing! Your staff are brand ambassadors. They are the human face of your business. If they are not upholding your brand values, you need to take some immediate action.

  7. You’re not sure what your point of difference is.

    Uh-oh. This is the ‘little engine that could’ where it comes to your marketing. It’s the “why” in the choosing process. Have a good think about what you do that’s different to the centre down the road, then work on communicating that. Everywhere.

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Encourage Early Readers With the Perfect Book Displays In Your Home!

Encourage Early Readers With the Perfect Book Displays in Your Home!

Books squashed into bookcases where they collect dust are becoming a thing of the past. For pre-schoolers and babies, you are likely to find them picking books that are creatively displayed and within their reach.
Here’s what you need to consider when displaying your books:

Are they within reach?

There’s not much point having books stacked so high that they can’t be reached by little ones. Eventually they will stop asking you to get them. Make sure there are enough books within reach of little hands.

Do they stand out?

Books that are facing outwards are much more likely to be picked up and read, rather than thrown and left in a pile! Make sure the titles and pictures are easy to see.

Are they in an inviting space?

An inviting space always encourages you to engage in the activity that the space suggests. Make the space inviting to their aesthetic, even get them involved in the décor. You will find that it’s a spot they will then spend plenty of time in!

Are they the right books?

Provide a variety of books within your child’s age range. Board books with brightly coloured, labelled photos are perfect for toddlers.

Are there the right amount of books?

Too many books can be overwhelming. Make sure you provide 5-6 books for early readers and rotate them weekly. They will soon develop favourites that will stay in the rotation for longer than that. Let them! Who doesn’t have a favourite book they could read over and over if given the chance?
Developing a love of reading is doesn’t need to be complicated! Zerotothree.org explains that toddlers develop a love of books by simply playing and exploring books. Find out more early literacy here.
To make your book displays stand out, consider these ideas!

Book Slings

Book slings are a fun, creative way to display books anywhere in the home, and on a budget.

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https://www.pinterest.com/pin/547257792194217208/

Book Trees

A tree that grows books? Yes please! The simplicity in this allows creativity but still keeps the books as the most prominent part of the display!

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https://www.pinterest.com/pin/35043703328398155/

Book Walls

Book walls are a great way to display many books facing outwards. You can have the top ones out of reach, and continually rotate the books by bringing swapping the ones up high for the ones down low.

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Do you want to see how your child engages in early reading skills at their daycare or early childhood centre? JourneyTree is the perfect app to track your child’s literacy learning! Contact us today to find out more.

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Nature Based Play Spaces: Creating Optimum Learning Opportunities at Home or School

Playing outside

It can be so easy to gravitate to bright plastics and tech-type toys when considering play spaces in the home or at school. These products are readily available and marketed heavily in shops and school resource catalogues. That’s why you can end up buying them. They are convenient and easy. However, thinking outside the box to create nature based play spaces in children’s environments is so important. Once you offer this type of space you’ll see the benefits immediately and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

What exactly is a nature based play space?

A nature based play space is any play space that includes natural elements within the space. Natural elements can include:
• rocks, boulders
• sand, bark or pebbles
• logs, wooden planks
• plants, vegetable gardens, beds for planting
• water, mud, leaves, grass, twigs
• recycled materials such as barrels

Are the benefits that great?

In comparison to a synthetic play space, the answer is yes. A literature summary written by Dr Lisa Wood and Dr Karen Martin from The University of Western Australia, states that nature based play has been shown to improve the amount of active play by children. This can assist in combating obesity and promotes resilience, creativity and emotional wellbeing.
How do you feel when you get outdoors and reconnect with nature?
Do you feel relaxed when you leave your phone in the house and get outside in the garden?
Most people feel relaxed and at ease when they are doing these things and children feel the same way! It’s a stress reliever for adults and children alike.

How can you incorporate a nature based play space in your school or home?

Nature play spaces can be as simple or as intricate as you choose, depending on the space and budget you are working with. The first step is to look at your space and dream big. Sketch ideas, shop around and imagine what the space could look like. It doesn’t all need to happen at once. You may slowly renovate a space by trading one synthetic toy for one natural at a time!
When you incorporate a nature play area, factoring in accessibility in a school is important. Ensure that the play area can be easily accessed by the age group it is aimed for and ramps are available.
In your home, keep things changeable. Permanent structures can be grown out of quickly and you may find it a costly experience to keep up with your child’s development and change equipment to keep them challenged and interested. By keeping things interchangeable you will be able to give them the creativity to create what they like at their development level. You’ll also save money by having products that inspire rather than restrict imagination.
JourneyTree is a great way to establish comprehensive, regular communication between educators and families. It also provides you with the perfect way to capture the best memories of your child in the great outdoors. Contact us today to find out more!

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Photo Books: The Best Educational and Nostalgic Gift This Christmas

Photo Books

Photo books at Christmas are a beautiful way to round off the year’s memories. They also provide you with a gift that grandparents will absolutely adore! Then there is the added bonus of keeping one for yourself so your family can look at them and see just how much they’ve grown and developed over time.
It might seem like photo books are simply a trip down Nostalgia Lane, but they are so much more than that. Photo books create a timeline for your child that helps them have a better understanding of themselves and their world.
Here’s 5 ways you can make photo books just right for gifts, but educational too!

1. Identify the seasons

Putting the images in your photo book in order of the calendar year means children can identify and clearly see the changes in our seasons. Photos of the beach, snow or park show obvious signs of seasonal variations; as do photos that show everyone rugged up or wearing shorts!

2. Talk about growth and change

Children grow and change a lot over one year. Comparing what they looked like and what they could do at the start of the year as opposed to the end of the year can help them see that as they grow they continue to change and learn new skills. They may have learnt to read more complex books, write longer words, draw more detailed pictures or hop on one foot – every little milestone can be commemorated.

3. Discuss belonging

Children who have a firm sense of belonging are more likely to feel secure and safe in their environment. Going over photos of the important people in children’s lives allows them to clarify their relationships, and their place within their social and familial circles. You can talk about their feelings towards family or close friends – your child’s ‘inner world’ – and those who are in their ‘outer world’, such as teachers or friends.

4. Brainstorm and get writing

Why not get your children’s creative juices flowing by having them choose a favourite photo to prompt a brainstorm session? It could be anything from “The Best Day of the Year!” to “It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas!” Have them look at the photo and write down any words that come to mind, then use those words to formulate their own narrative.

5. Add the photo book to their reading collection

What’s better than a book that features you as one of the main characters? Yearly photo books can be a beautiful Christmas Eve present for everyone can cuddle up and read together. Adding text alongside the photos gives the book a ‘story’ feel and it will be a book they will ask you to read as part of their bedtime routine time and time again!
If you’re looking for the perfect software to create your Christmas photo book, look no further than JourneyTree. JourneyTree provides a secure and convenient way to store your child’s life story. It’s the perfect platform for your child’s Early Childhood Centre to add images, too!

Find out more about creating photo books by contacting JourneyTree today.

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Preparing Child To Deal With An Emergency | JourneyTree

Emergency

What Do Children Need To Know

Are you confident about preparing your child to deal with an emergency? How well do you believe they’d cope in a crisis?
It’s not something most of us want to think about, but no parent wants their child to be caught unprepared if the need does arise. Teaching your child some basic emergency skills could well save their life.

They need to understand what an emergency situation is

It’s important children can identify what an emergency situation is, and isn’t. Talking to them about what distinguishes an unpleasant situation from one that’s potentially dangerous or harmful is a crucial conversation to have.
Ideally you’ll want your child to feel confident trusting their judgement on this so they’re able to make a sound decision based on the facts of the situation and not just fear.

They need to know how to get to a safe place

Make sure your child is taught some basic safety procedures. Should an emergency situation ever arise, it’s important they’re able to remove themselves from any immediate danger.
Basic first aid can also be learnt from a young age. At the very least, teach your child to be able to determine whether somebody is conscious and responsive. This will help them to make the best decision about what to do next.

They need to know who to contact and what is likely to then happen

  • Education about making a 000 call is important for all Australian children, especially when their exposure to American media can cause confusion with 911. Explaining the importance of only calling 000 when there’s a true emergency is essential too, as misdials are all too common and a drain on emergency service resources.
  • Discuss with them the sorts of questions the 000 operator will ask and the information they’ll need to be able to provide, such as:
  • Their name and age and your name;
  • Their address and/or the location of the emergency;
  • Details of the event and a brief description of what injuries there are;
  • The emergency service they require (usually ambulance and/or police).
    Further questions will most likely be asked and your child should be prepared to answer confidently and as accurately as possible.

They need to know to be practiced in the procedure

Rehearsing the steps to take in an emergency will give your child the confidence to act calmly should a crisis ever occur. Regularly having the conversation, in a way they can clearly understand, is key to them understanding the seriousness and responsibility that comes with coping in an emergency.
Preparing your child to deal with an emergency may seem daunting, but you’ll be so glad you had the conversation if those skills are ever called upon.
For more information speak with your Early Childhood Professional who should be able to assist you with age-appropriate resources and tips.

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Protecting Your Child’s Images Online | JourneyTree

Very recently we posted an article about how important JourneyTree believes data protection and security is when it comes to keeping kids safe. Protecting your child’s images and information online can be overwhelming, especially if you are not fully aware of the risks. The range of preventative measures you can take to minimise any security breach can also be confusing.
Cyber safety expert Susan McLean says the “only real way to protect images of our children is not to post them online”. But is this black and white solution even feasible given the online culture of most families?

Why we’re putting our children’s lives online

The early days of your child’s life create memories you want to hold onto forever. Luckily with smart phones and their high quality cameras, it’s almost too easy to grab photographic evidence of all that cuteness.
These days, too, our circle of family and friends is spread far and wide across the globe. They can now share in the joy of your child thanks to the convenience of social media platforms and email.
But once a pic of your child has been shared digitally, all control of it has gone. According to the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, and published recently by the Sunday Morning Herald, innocent photos taken from family social media profiles account for up to 50% of images found on some child exploitation sharing sites.
It’s a terrifying statistic, but thankfully there are steps you can take to protect your child’s images online.

The questions to ask yourself before you hit ‘share’

  • When your child is older, is this an image they’d be pleased to know was shared?
  • Is there any nudity? Don’t share photos of your children in the bath or getting dressed, no matter how innocent your intentions.
  • Have you checked the security and privacy settings of your social media accounts?
  • Have you ensured in your post settings that ‘friends’ and not ‘friends of friends’ can see your images?
  • Have you asked your friends to respect the privacy of your family?
  • Have you ensured there are no identifying factors in the photo, such as school uniforms or street names?
  • If your child is a little older, have you discussed with them that you are sharing their images online?
  • Have you done any Google image searches (or reverse image searches) to ensure images of your child are not being used in any untoward ways?
  • Have you avoided using hashtags or other grouping features?
  • Is your child’s school posting images of your child on their social media sites, and is this a closed group? Are they sharing images of your child on a website?

JourneyTree gives learning environments a secure method for image sharing and puts parents in control of sharing priviledges.

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Why Data Security Is So Important With JourneyTree

security

Why Data Security Is So Important For Early Learning Centres And Their Families

Watching a child learn, develop and grow is exciting and creates memories worth recording and treasuring.
Smartphones, tablets and computers make it simple for us to store and share information about our children. But high profile data security breaches, such as the ones we’ve seen affect Target, Kmart and Sony recently, are there to remind us how important it is to ensure we have excellent data security protocols.

Avoid future embarrassment for children

Dropping your child off at their early learning centre can be very difficult at times. It’s easy to worry that you’re missing out on witnessing significant milestones, and even the everyday discoveries your child is experiencing.
Online tools are an excellent way to bridge this gap between parent and carer, as well as a way to store special moments for the longer term.
However, some of these discoveries – such as using the toilet correctly for the first time – may not be something a child wants her friends to look at on her fifteenth birthday!
Information sharing is just so easy these days that we sometimes forget who the potential audience may be. It’s important to keep data about our children secure to avoid any future embarrassment.

Avoid criminal contact

It’s a sad fact of modern life that the internet can be a very unsafe place for our children when not managed securely.
The dangers faced by our children online are well recognised by the Australian Federal Police’s Online child sex exploitation unit. Predators seeking to ‘groom’ children for abuse may turn to the internet to find personal details, including photographs. Failing to secure the data we store about our children can make them a prime target.
It would be hard for a child to distinguish a stranger from a friend if the stranger seemed to know personal details about them. The child may think they’re talking to a friend of their parents, rather than someone who has simply hacked into an unsecured treasure trove of personal information about the child.

Keeping personal details private

Good data security ensures that information about families is safe from prying eyes. Even if your online information contains nothing particularly damaging to the family’s reputation or the child’s future, there are also issues like identity theft and credit card fraud to consider.
Data routinely collected by early learning centres and stored digitally includes:
• child’s name, address and date of birth;
• child’s medical history, including immunisations, accidents and illnesses;
• family relationship history, including any family court orders;
• behavioural challenges and development issues faced.
Aside from any potential criminal activity arising from security breaches, this is the kind of family information that’s often best kept in the hands of a few.
Using secure software, such as JourneyTree, to store information protects the privacy and safety of children and their families.

Learn more about online safety for children

Children’s eSafety Commissioner
Stay Smart Online
ThinkUKnow

For more information about secure early learning centre software, contact JourneyTree today.

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