Alicia and a story of online safety

Internet safety is important for everyone – but it’s particularly crucial for children to be protected online.

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In 2002, 13 year-old Alicia Kozakiewicz was lured from her home by an internet predator, abducted and abused. Thanks to an anonymous tip, the FBI was able to track down Alicia and her abductor. 

" Do your research. Get online, get Snapchat [and] Instagram, play with it and figure it out.” 

It sounds like a scene from a particularly gruesome crime show but for Kozakiewicz this was all too real, a trauma no child should experience. She has since spent her life dedicated to educating adults and children about the need to stay safe online. Kozakiewicz is now a motivational speaker, child safety advocate, internet safety expert and founder of The Alicia Project.


“This does and can happen to your family - it really can - so you have to prevent it,” she says.

Sixteen years since Alicia’s ordeal, the internet has become a staple part of most people’s lives throughout the world. Although this creates many positive opportunities, it has also increased potential threats.

Kozakiewicz says the focus on followers and likes for young people can open them up to contact from strangers. “[Kids] have to be a good online citizen as well as a good person in the real world,” she says. “Your self-worth is not valued by the number of likes or followers you have.”

Children have access to a myriad of sites, games, videos and applications and Kozakiewicz says it’s important for parents to stay up-to-date with current trends.

“Do your research. Get online, get Snapchat [and] Instagram, play with it and figure it out,” she stresses.

Kozakiewicz says parents must sit down and talk about internet safety with their children as they do other safety issues: “as a parent, you can’t just let your child find their way in this world – you teach them to wear a seatbelt, look both ways when crossing the road, don’t touch a hot pot.”

“You don’t want to scare them to the point where it’s debilitating,” she adds. “It’s not about making them fear the world, it’s about empowering them. Kids make mistakes -that’s how they learn and grow - and we need to prepare them for if they do.”



ANZ has committed to an extensive awareness campaign over the coming months to ensure the momentum of Stay Smart Online Week carries well into 2019. 

The campaign will encourage Australians to make a “PACT” to protect their virtual valuables, which means placing the same emphasis on keeping information safe and secure online as one would with physical valuables, such as a house, car or wallet.

PACT is a simple message:

  • Pause before sharing your personal information (address, date of birth etc);
  • Activate two layers of security (voice ID, SMS notification etc);
  • Call out suspicious messages (emails that don’t look quite right); and
  • Turn on automatic software updates (on your phone and other devices).

Everyone is encouraged to make a PACT to better protect themselves, their family, friends and customers against cybercrime.

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Pic: Alicia Kozakiewicz with the ANZ cyber team Source: Provided

Kozakiewicz says parents need to monitor their children’s online activity even if it feels like a breach of privacy but stresses the importance of having an open line of communication so children can come to them if they are in trouble online.

“Kids are so afraid you're going to judge them [and] be disappointed in them,” she says. “Be proud of them for coming to you - they've made a really good decision.”

Erica Hardinge is Joint Head Security Influence & Outreach at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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