Wednesday, 3 September 2014

5 critical lessons to teach kids about online safety

Although the recent nude celebrity hacking scandal involved a sophisticated and criminal invasion of privacy, experts say the event provides parents with a timely opportunity to teach their kids some critical online safety lessons.  
According to Shannon Curtis from “Kids will already be talking about the nude celebrity scandal and how it happened, so the event provides a perfect opportunity for parents to connect with their kids in a current way about online safety”.
According to Curtis, the critical lessons every child should learn about online safety are:
1. Recognition that we all have a digital footprint that lasts forever. Before posting content online ask yourself is this something you would be happy if a teacher or parent were to see it. If not you probably shouldn’t be posting it online.  
2. Think carefully before sharing photos of others. If you do not have permission to, if it is inappropriate, or if will make another person embarrassed or upset then don’t share it.
3. Ensure that your children understand the importance of privacy settings and are familiar with how to set them across any social networks they are active on.
4. Reinforce the importance of having different and strong passwords for each website or online account. Strong passwords contain a minimum of 8 characters, a mix of upper, lower case characters, numbers, symbols and do not contain your name.
5. Encourage them to report any inappropriate content or behaviour they experience online.

Monday, 1 September 2014

5 wishes for my children...

Ever since I had my boys, I’ve tried my best to raise them to embody the qualities I feel will most contribute to them having a good life, to becoming good men.

I want them to accept others, and accept themselves. To be themselves regardless of what others think, and allow others to do the same.

To grow into kind men, who respect others, who respect women, and who respect themselves.

It isn’t always easy, but I’m trying.

And then I had my daughter.

She’s begun to look at me the way babies do, with love and adoration and pure dependence.

And it hit me – I will be the most influential role model in her life, as all mothers are to their daughters. It’s not enough to simply teach our children, we have to live the life we want for them – or at least try to.

It’s up to me to show my children, not just tell them, how to live a good life, a positive life, the best life possible.
Although actually living these lessons is even more difficult than trying to teach them. Here are the five simple life rules I hope myself – and my children – can learn to live by.

1. Have compassion but also conviction:

Having compassion is crucial for a healthy soul and a happy heart. It’s vitally important to have empathy, to put yourself in another person’s shoes, to avoid placing judgment.

At the same time, compassion shouldn't be confused with capitulation or with support for a behaviour you don’t condone.

Have conviction in your beliefs, your opinions and your view of what’s right and what’s wrong.  And don’t allow your compassion to be taken advantage of.
Sometimes compassion can weaken our conviction, and vise versa – but it is possible to have both.

2. Stay true to your values:

Figuring out what our values actually are can be confusing. Especially in a society where so many different views, opinions, beliefs and attitudes are thrown in front of our faces on a regular basis, thanks to technology and social media.

Most of us experience pressure to change our values – either directly or indirectly – by our peers, our friends, our colleagues or our loved ones.

And we can end up questioning our values, making allowances or convincing ourselves of something different.

At the end of the day though, most of us know deep down what our true values are – it’s an instinctual feeling, an intrinsic belief.

And it’s that uncomfortable feeling, that knot in the stomach that tells us when those values are being questioned – by others or ourselves.

It can take more strength to stay true to your values than to compromise them. But in the long run, you’ll thank yourself for it.

3. Live your truth:

Probably the most important lesson, and perhaps the most difficult, is to simply live your truth.

Be you.

Don’t change because someone wants you to, or asks you to, to make more friends or to fit in.

Love the best way you know how and expect the same in return.

Be compassionate and forgiving, but strong and independent.

Know how to treat others, and how to be treated.

Be true to your values, and value yourself.  Your health, your happiness, your beliefs, your life.

4. Be loyal to those who are loyal to you:

Sometimes the people that are the most loyal, that love us unconditionally, are the ones we take for granted.

And that can mean focusing our time and energy on those we want in our lives, or who we wish to impress, rather than the ones who are already there.

Don’t risk losing – or hurting – the people who love you the most. Don’t waste your energy on people who are half-hearted about you and your feelings and your life. Instead spend it on the people who steadfast stand by your side, who support you without fail and realise how lucky they are to have you.

And, equally as important, expect the same from others.

5. See the beauty in life, even when it’s far from view:

There are battles, sadness, anger, horror, fear, frustration and confusion. Sometimes it feels like that’s all there is.

Don’t let the hard times make you bitter and hateful. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, no matter how low you need to go… just remember to come back up.

There is always beauty, love, laughter, joy and peace in the world – sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find it.

*originally posted on

What do you believe and live by?

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Soundtrack to life

Last week I interviewed Leo Sayer for an upcoming feature. 

As I sat down to dial the phone, I actually felt nervous. Nerves or anticipation? I'm not sure. But it was something. And as someone who interviews for a living, it was off putting. 

I hadn't felt the flutter of butterflies before an interview since I was a cadet journalist phoning the local politician, yet here I was, like some sort of fangirl, getting anxious before a call. 

It wasn't that though - although I am indeed a fan - but because I was about to talk to the man whose music has provided the soundtrack to my family's life - to my life - since I was a little girl. 

His music is incredibly special to me and represents everything I love most about my life - my family. 

And I was about to have the opportunity to hear firsthand about the inspiration behind the lyrics that have provided so much happiness, comfort, resonance and nostalgia. 

Music has a way of doing that - lifting spirits, providing strength, and bringing back memories in the most vivid of ways. 

Sayer's Just A Boy album was the first record my dad gave to my mum when they were dating, he used to play his songs on the guitar when we were little and my brothers and I grew to become fans ourselves.

I remember creating my own mixed songs cassette when I was a teenager, always finding the right song to suit my convoluted adolescent emotions. 

Not much has changed and I still find tracks which resonate with my current experiences and outlook on life. 

These days though I'll often pull out the Leo Sayer music when I need to centre myself, remember who I am, draw on the strength of my family, or take a trip down memory lane. 

Or just listen to some good music. 

It doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but whenever the five of us (my parents, my brothers and I) are together, we've always got Leo playing in the background, remembering a time when things were simple, and being together was a common occurrence. 

I think all families, couples, friends have different songs, musicians, albums that takes them back to a particular time or place, that brings back emotions and feelings. 

So it was pretty cool to be able to be able to have a chat with one of the stand outs, despite the fangirl nerves. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Children see, children do...

Ever since I had my two boys, I've tried my best to raise them to embody the qualities I feel will most contribute to them having a good life, to becoming good men. 

To be honest and kind, confident but humble, strong but gentle. 

To accept others, and accept themselves. To be themselves regardless of what others think, and allow others to do the same. 

To value education, read books, be grateful and gracious, love openly, and find the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

To grow into kind men, who respect others, who respect women, and who respect themselves. 

It isn't always easy, but I'm trying my best to teach these things, and more, to my boys. 

And then I had a daughter. 

She's four months now, and has begun to look at me the way babies do, with love and adoration and pure reliance. 

And it hit me - it's not enough to simply teach, we have to live the way we want our children to live. 

I am now the most important role model in my daughter's life, as all mothers are to their daughters. 

It's up to me to show her, not just tell her, how to live a good life, a positive life, the best life possible. 

How to love and be loved. 

How to be compassionate and forgiving, but strong and independent. 

How to treat others, and how to be treated. 

To be true to her values, and value herself.  Her health, her happiness, her beliefs, her life. 

Living the life we want for our children is even harder than teaching it. But I'm trying. 

Apparently this ad was banned because it depicts children doing unsavoury things, but it's absolutely brilliant and really drives the message home. 

Watch it if you have a spare couple of minutes. 

It brings a tear to my eye every time. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Behaviour, not biology, makes a real family

Watching television recently, I saw an advertisement for the RSPCA.

It was designed to encourage potential pet owners to adopt rather than buy - a great idea and an important issue. 

In doing so, the dialogue went something along the lines of the following (I'm paraphrasing as I can't recall it verbatim and I may have taken creative license with the names). 

"Fido, we have something to tell you, we think you're old enough to know"

*Dog stares back at its owners. 

"You're adopted."

*Dog continues staring. 

"Miffy isn't you're real sister."

*Dog cocks head and camera pans back to reveal a duck. 

"Neither is Mitzy."

*Camera pans back to reveal a cat (or another animal, the specifics escape me). 

The concept in itself is a good one, it's presented with humour as the dog cocks his head in apparent confusion. 

But while the message is positive with regards to pet adoption, I feel the dialogue sends a negative message to children who are adopted who may be watching. 

It's just the one simple line really: "Miffy isn't your real sister."

Simply saying, "so is Miffy.  And Mitzy" followed by the wider shots of the other animals would have delivered the same message to adults watching, without the underlying message that adopted siblings aren't real siblings. 

And herein lies the problem. 

Despite how far we've come with adoption awareness, our society still seems to place undue importance on biology, reducing adopted and non-biological families as inferior or somehow not quite real. 

And this simply doesn't reflect reality. 

I think most of us know someone whose relationship with a non-biological family member is far more real than any biological relationship could ever be. I know I do. 

Yet we see this ingrained obsession all the time in multiple facets of society, from the government's obsessive focus on reuniting biological children to unfit parents despite terrible abuse, at times resulting in more serious abuse, even death; to the media's continual reference to celebrities' adopted children, as opposed to simply referring to their children.  Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as well as Woody Allen are recent notable examples of this.

Back to the ad, you can imagine the importance parents place when advising children of their adoption, in reassuring them that they are indeed a real family with real parents and real brothers and sisters.  

The words in the RSPCA ad contradict that. 

And while it might seem insignificant to many people watching, and I understand it's supposed to be light-hearted, it's probably less so for a confused young child whose recently found out about their adoption. 

When in reality, it's behaviour, not biology that makes a real family. 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Put Your Hand Up For Miracles

I had the privilege of meeting Melinda Cruz some years back, at the Earnst and Young Entrepreneurial Awards, for which she was nominated - and deservedly won - the award for Social Entrepreneur of the Year. 

Soon after she asked me to be an Ambassador for her foundation, Miracle Babies - a request that I was honoured to receive and happily agreed to.

Since its inception in 2005, Miracle Babies Foundation has become Australia’s leading organisation supporting premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them. 

Every year in Australia around 45,000 newborn babies require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN). 25,000 of these babies are born premature and up to 1000 babies lose their fight for life.

With more than 15% of all babies born premature or sick, chances are you are one, you’ve had one or you know one.
The heartbreaking experience affects the entire family unit and the effects remain long after going home… the comforting news is that, working with health professionals, Miracle Babies is there throughout the entire journey from a threatened pregnancy, the time in hospital and the transition to home.
Here's how you can help...

Firstly, you can support my Everyday Hero fundraising page to help me achieve my goal of raising $1000 for the Miracle Babies Foundation.

Other ways you can help are:
You can also collect donations offline. Collect $5 from your network and send the money to us!
Collect donations from:
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Co-workers
  • Kids school or daycare
  • Social groups
  • Sporting Organsations
If you choose this option, we will provide you with your own fundraising kit which includes a donation collection form and payment details. Contact Renee at head office on 1300 773 664 or email to get your Offline Fundraising Kit emailed to you.

Facebook: MiracleBabiesFoundation
Twitter: @miraclebabies
Examples of how to share your donation:
With a photo of your Hand Up:
I donated to @miraclebabiesfoundation #HandsUpForMiracles. Your $5 donation can help miracle families across Australia. Donate Now! #5dollars #donate #miraclemonth
With a photo of your Hand Up:
I donated to @miraclebabies #HandsUpForMiracles. Your $5 donation can help miracle families across Australia. Donate Now! #5dollars #donate #miraclemonth