Northern NSW artist Sam Wortelhock is using her talents to draw murals on school buildings to visually remind children about cyber safety.
Ms Wortelhock was approached by Safe on Social Media director Kirra Pendergast to join her school visits across Australia to raise awareness about using social media safely, and to understand personal risk management.
Their first collaborative piece is at Tenterfield High School, with more work scheduled for schools across Australia and New Zealand next year.
Ms Pendergast said it was important that students and parents understood the world of cyber and the underworld of the dark web.
“Parents are still of that generation that distinguish online and offline as two very different things, but in the eyes of a child it’s just life now,” she said.
“So parents really need to step up and be educated in the space that their children are living in.”
Ms Pendergast also thinks it is dangerous to take away a child’s iPad, PlayStation or other devices as punishment.
“I’m a different thinker in this space. A lot of people would agree to ban children from their devices,” she said.
“But I’ve spoken to kids as young as eight years old and they’ve told me they’re not not telling their parents when someone asks them for a nude picture online for fear of having their device removed.”
She thinks parents need to look at other ways of discipline to avoid children becoming secretive and hiding cyber problems.
Visual story a permanent reminder
Ms Wortelhock was eager to work with Ms Pendergast because she has noticed many students responded to the visual more than they did the literal.
“If you paint something that is permanent, instead of that short attention span that is probably created through social media, there is a permanent reminder in a visual story, so Kirra’s message can stay there forever,” she said.
Ms Wortelhock painted a mural on a wall outside Tenterfield High School’s computer room of a yellow brick road that splits into two, where children can walk a safe path on social media and end up in the Emerald City, or take the dangerous path that leads to the dark web.
“If they swipe left towards the dark web they will go through a field of sheep, because they are behaving like sheep, and the road leads to nowhere, and above that road is the angry emoji,” she said.
“But if they go right and choose to be responsible with their activity online, then it can take them pretty much anywhere.
“They can go through the enchanted forest and end up at The Emerald City.”
Ms Wortelhock said she framed the image with books because it was a story.
“But also I think one of the casualities of online short attention span behaviour is reading,” she said.
“I can see the danger and the risk with online activity that people need to be educated about, and I can do this visually through my artwork.”