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Mother of Murdered Teen Launches Safety App

27 October 2015 at 11:25 am
Ellie Cooper
The mother of Carly Ryan, the first girl in Australia to be murdered by an internet predator, has launched a free personal safety app to protect young people against cybercrime.

Ellie Cooper | 27 October 2015 at 11:25 am


Mother of Murdered Teen Launches Safety App
27 October 2015 at 11:25 am

The mother of Carly Ryan, the first girl in Australia to be murdered by an internet predator, has launched a free personal safety app to protect young people against cybercrime.

The Carly Ryan Foundation and digital engagement specialists KOJO, with support of the South Australian Government and Google, developed Thread to help children and teenagers stay connected and deal with unsafe situations when they are online or away from home.

After losing her daughter in 2007, Sonya Ryan said she had dedicated her life to educating young people and parents about the dangers of cyber predators.

“My daughter Carly was groomed by a middle-aged man who posed as a teenage boy online for over 18 months, operating over 200 fake profiles to lure children online. As the first girl in Australia to be murdered by an internet predator it opened up a critical dialogue on the safety of young people both on and offline,” Ryan said at the launch of Thread.

“I am delighted to officially launch Thread nationally, now available free on Google Play and the Apple App Store, to help prevent this type of crime happening to another child. The app has been created by digital specialists KOJO, who work across huge commercial brands, the sophistication of the technology ensures its reliability and simplicity of use for both parents and children.

“The reality is that not everyone has the right intentions, with this app we can potentially prevent crimes from happening. If Carly had this technology, the outcome may have been different for her.”

Thread allows users to check in with their location to show they’re ok, start discussions with trusted contacts about online or offline dangers and, in the event of an emergency, send their location while dialling 000. Thread is pin protected so users can be assured that the communication they receive is genuine.

“If a teenager is at a friend’s house or a party and feels unsure of their safety, they can discreetly send their location to their emergency contacts. Thread provides an immediate connection between that child’s location, trusted contacts and emergency services,” Ryan said.

“What defines us as humans and Australians is how well we rise from such devastating situations. Thread ensures we are on our way to really making a difference and as a community able to prevent these horrific crimes from occurring.”

KOJO Chief Strategy Officer, Stephen Lord, said the development of Thread focussed on how teenagers use technology and utilised a simple interface.

“Users can quickly and easily communicate with trusted contacts or call for help. This technology puts the power in the users’ hands and allows them to make decisive action immediately,” Lord said.

“It is our hope that parents and their kids talk about what to do in dangerous scenarios and include Thread as part of their action-plan.”

Thread has also been flagged for use in domestic violence cases, creating a vital link to support those in potentially dangerous situations.

Independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, a long-time supporter of the Carly Ryan Foundation, urged all governments to support Thread.  

“Thread enables young people and their families to be safe from predators. If all young people have access to Thread, it will make for a much safer community,” Xenophon said.

“It’s important that every tier of government; state, federal and even local governments, come together to promote this app and the benefits it can have on our community.”

The South Australian Minister for Education and Child Development, the Hon Susan Close MP, said the app provides a valuable resource for children and their parents.

“As a parent, you often feel conflicted about how quickly children grow up, and it can be a particularly daunting transition for both parent and child when children start venturing out alone,” Close said.

“Thread helps families and friendship groups to retain a sense of safety and connectedness in spite of any physical separation and, in a time of need, will allow users to send prompt and relevant information to a preferred contact group.

“It provides another layer of care and protection for young people and peace of mind for parents and guardians.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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