Coffs Harbour kids learn about social media’s dark side

Allegra School students Ambrosia and Koi with presenter Kirra Pendergast from Safe on Social (centre).

CONCERNED about the insidious negative effects social media can have on young people, Coffs Harbour’s Allegra School invited Kirra Pendergast, founder and CEO of Safe On Social, to host cyber safety sessions for students, parents and staff.

Kirra has worked to address social media addictions, designed programs for parents/students, and has worked with schools to build awareness around the dangers of engaging with certain apps.

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Kirra donated a work-ready program to Allegra School which looks at things like email etiquette, phishing and cyber safety.

“Today we covered why it’s always safe to speak up to a trusted adult if they (young people) need help with something that has happened online,” Kirra told NOTA.

“We talked about the law in Australia and how that actually works for young people who need to report something that’s happened online.

“[We discussed] new technology like synthetic relationships, AI, and how that can contribute to sextortion and how to protect themselves from being ‘deepfaked’ and what to look out for to see if they are talking to a real person or not.

“And how to create a positive online presence before looking for a job right through to what they actually signed up for when they started using social media and safety in online gaming.”

The online world is constantly changing and a dark side is growing its reach.

Kirra’s program brings a unique blend of personal experience, technical expertise and “a compassionate methodology” to inspire a shift towards balanced and positive relationships with technology use.

“[We are] aiming to make the online world safer and more enriching for everyone,” she said.

“The pupils were so fantastic…three of them are now working on projects under my Youth Advisory Program.”

Student Archie said it was “slightly scary” to see how choices online can affect a child’s future.

“I will be thinking about every choice I make on the internet from now on.”

Before the presentation, student Tyla was unaware “how much of my personal information is taken and used by social media”.

“That was very eye-opening, and also learning about how many lies people tell on social media.”

Allegra School pupil Eden said the presentation enabled students to consider the positives and negatives of social media.

“I learned how to better protect myself, my friends and my family online and while social media can be dangerous, if you learn how to use it properly it can make it easier to get a cool job.”

Koi, another of the participating students, said it was important to be aware of the information users wers sharing with social media platforms.

“No matter what, every social media app will take and store your information as soon as you agree to their terms.”

Allegra School Student Support Officer/Counsellor Danielle Free told NOTA, “Kirra is a powerful presenter and packed a lot of information into her presentation.

“The students were engaged within the first five minutes and continued to be for the hour, happily asking questions and sharing their experiences.”

She said the biggest take-aways for the students was gaining a new awareness around the damage that phones are having on their sleep and growing brains, along with how much of their personal information is being collected daily.

“From here our families and staff have access to a portal with a huge amount of information to call upon, as Kirra so generously gifted the school the ‘eWork Ready’ program.”

The ‘eWork Ready’ program is about preparing students to excel in the workplace by giving guidance on how to prepare their online presence, minimise online risks and build safe strategies for the internet-connected professional world.


Safe on Social creator and CEO Kirra Pendergast hosts a presentation with Allegra students about being online aware and the hidden dangers of social media.

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