• Lucy Brock speaks to a school about safe clicks.
  • Lucy Brock talks with a student after one of her presentations.

Safe Clicks a power for good

Earlier this year, twenty-four year old North Shore resident Lucy Brock was crowned Miss World New Zealand; in November, she represents New Zealand at Miss World in London. As part of her entry into the Miss World competition, she created a project, to be presented in London, called Safe Clicks. It is, she says “all about online safety and wellbeing for young Kiwi kids”.

After leaving school Lucy undertook Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Communications studies at AUT University; she currently works as a senior creative strategist for a creative agency.

“I believe in doing things that will take me outside my comfort zone,” she says. “It sounds clichéd but I am always looking for ways to learn, improve and challenge myself. This was a key reason that I took part in the 2019 Miss World New Zealand competition; as a result I have had some amazing opportunities.

One of these was establishing Safe Clicks, which aims to reach out to young New Zealanders to raise awareness of online harm and bullying. “Social media is around ten years old and the internet has been around for about 20 years, so in the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively new subject that is ever-changing,” Lucy says. “It has certainly affected the way we live – in many positive ways, but simultaneously, in many potentially harmful ways. I’m covering some particularly heavy subjects such as online hate speech, combating child sexual abuse material, cyber bullying, online danger, and mental wellbeing in relation to social media.

“The Christchurch terrorist attacks and the way in which that unfolded online shocked me, as did finding out that a significant number of youth suicide cases in New Zealand were linked to online harm and bullying. I work in social and digital media so I feel I am well versed in the subject.”

Her partners in Safe Clicks are Netsafe, Brave and Youthline. “Netsafe,” says Lucy, “is the leader for online safety in New Zealand. They are the experts in online safety for all New Zealanders and much of my material is guided from them.

“Brave is focused on awareness and education on sexual violence in New Zealand. Many online safety cases are linked to sexual harassment so this is also a key partner to work with.

“Youthline is focused on wellbeing and mental health, so having Youthline as a key reference is important too. All three organisations have hotlines kids can call for help if they are experiencing distress in any of these areas and I make sure to make kids aware of these during my presentations.”

Lucy has already presented at the Students’ Wellbeing Conference in Christchurch to around 500 school students. “That provided a great opportunity to kick things off. I have just launched my website www.safeclicks.online and have a number of schools lined up that I will be speaking to around New Zealand. I have plans to speak to schools in Auckland, Whanganui, Rotorua and Wellington, mostly over September and October.”

Her aim in starting Safe Clicks is to “get the conversation started and, more importantly, to reach out to kids to let them know where they can seek help if they are experiencing online distress or harm.

“The online space is intangible and many of the issues that occur online may appear to have that same intangibility or invisibility. The reality is that all the issues that happen online follow kids home in their pockets, through their technological devices – 24/7. They feel as though they can’t escape it and that can be fatal.

“Also, many people don’t know their rights. Thankfully, New Zealand has introduced the Harmful Digital Communications Act – it’s the first of its kind. Essentially this is legislation to protect Kiwis who are experiencing harm online. I think many people are unaware that individuals can be fined up to $50,000 or jailed for two years for harassment, or posting unwanted material or bullying online. The Act also has stronger punishments for an individual inciting someone to commit suicide.

“Conversations need to be had in schools with impressionable kids who are experiencing distress, so they seek help if they need it and know that they have rights and protection.

Lucy has funded the project herself, “so currently it is just me running the presentations” – with the support of her workplace, that has allowed her time to do this. “I would love to expand the project and bring others on board to spread the message.

“I think by sharing my personal experiences within my presentation helps the kids to feel more comfortable and allows them to relate more. I am not their teacher, I’m not their parent – I am just like them and I think that helps my message to carry well. I have had a few students reach out and share their personal stories with me, so getting [that] conversation started is something I am proud of. It’s often quite a touchy subject and can feel private and isolating when kids are experiencing online harm where their mental wellbeing is suffering, so open communication, education and offering support is what success looks like for this project.”

In future she also hopes to reach out to parents and caregivers, and she wants to make Safe Clicks a key resource for schools around New Zealand for support and guidance in the area of online safety and wellbeing.

“I would love to build educational videos that kids and parents can access from anywhere. I would also like to create an annual Ted Talk style conference with keynote speakers to talk about the online space and making it ‘a power for good’. I am certainly not against the internet or social media – it is a wonderful tool to connect, learn and be inspired – so I would like to create an event that celebrates the ‘good’ in an interesting way while providing educational guidance on safety and wellbeing.”