Unwanted contact online

The internet has opened opportunities for young people to communicate with people they know and those they have not met in real-life. While socialising online can be a great way for children to build friendships, the anonymity of the internet can also put them at risk of cyberbullying and predators.

If your child spends time online, there is a chance they might meet someone who could make them feel uncomfortable. Unwanted contact is any type of online communication that your child finds unpleasant or confronting. It can come from online ‘friends’ who they have not met face-to-face, or someone they actually know.

To help minimise your child’s vulnerability to unwanted contact online, encourage your child to:

  • raise any concerns with you or another trusted adult
  • use only a first name or nickname to identify themselves
  • never disclose their phone number or address
  • never send photographs of themselves that clearly show their identity
  • never agree to meet someone they have met online without your permission and at the very least with adult supervision

Inappropriate, offensive or illegal content

Protecting your kids from inappropriate, offensive or illegal content

We know that it can be difficult to monitor what your kids are viewing, as the devices they use provide online access at any time of the day. Your kids may not deliberately seek out inappropriate content, rather they may accidentally access it while undertaking online searches or opening content referred from others. They may also be able to use their personal devices to discover content blocked by home and school filters.

So what type of content might be considered as inappropriate, offensive or illegal? It’s any type of content that could be damaging to young people, including:

  • real or simulated violence
  • sexually explicit content
  • illegal images of child sexual abusecontent promoting hate based on race, religion or sexual preference
  • content instructing or promoting crime or violence
  • content promoting violent extremism
  • content that advocates unsafe behaviour like extreme dieting or drug taking

Sexting

It's important to remember that sexting can be a very serious concern. Creating and/or distributing sexual images with minors may constitute the production and/or distribution of child sexual abuse material. This can be the case even if the people in the image are willing participants. Note that outcomes vary by state and territory and are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Why do children sext?

Researcher Danah Boyd noted that ‘teens share images for all kinds of reasons... to express developing sexuality, to impress or be liked and to keep up with what they think is the norm. Most images are shared within relationships and most teens don’t expect images to be shared with others, with the exception of a few who hope they will gain fame’.

How can I support my child online?

It’s important to discuss the consequences of sexting with your children. If their image has been viewed by others, they may be publicly bullied and have sexually inappropriate comments made about them by friends and strangers, including adults.

You can:

  • talk to your children about the potential social, academic, employment and legal implications of posting inappropriate material of themselves or others online
  • encourage them to think twice before they post sexualised photos and consider the fact that others might view what they post
  • remind them to delete any sexual content they receive from others and avoid forwarding this type of content
  • remind them to consider the feelings of others when taking photos and distributing any content by mobile phone or online
  • seek professional support if you are worried that your child is vulnerable
  • if you are concerned that a sexting incident may be a criminal matter, contact your local police.

How can I minimise the spread of images?

Unfortunately, once shared online, many images end up on sites that are used for adult gratification. Act fast to help prevent this. If schoolmates are involved, the school may be able to help.

You can:

  • help your child to identify where the images might be and send take-down requests to all sites
  • send messages to all children who may have received an image and ask them to delete it immediately
  • help to block people who make offensive comments about your child and report them to the police if necessary.

The law

While it can be a crime to take and share sexual images of people under 18, the police don’t usually prosecute if there is no harm to those involved. Issues do arise if they have deliberately shared a photo or video of someone without consent, especially if they meant to embarrass or humiliate the subject.

If the police do become involved they will want to know how the image/video was made and where it might have been sent/posted. They will want to know who was involved and whether there was consent from all involved.

Help your child by putting together a record of what happened and where images and videos might be.

Social networking

Social networking is a large part of the social identity of young people. They are avid users of a range of social networking services including Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

Many kids also network through playing online games like Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters and World of Warcraft.

All of these services provide fun and engaging ways to:

  • stay connected and interact with friends and family
  • post information and updates about themselves and their activities
  • share photos and videos
  • chat and play games
  • comment on other people’s photos, posts and profiles.

It can be difficult to resist the ‘pester power’ of your kids when it comes to allowing them to engage on social media, especially when their friends may be allowed. There is a risk they may feel alienated, but ultimately you know your child best and whether they can handle the responsibilities and pressures of being on social media.

Cyberbullying

Sometimes cyberbullying feels like a minefield. As a parent, it can be hard to understand what your child is going through, both socially and emotionally—especially if you’ve never experienced cyberbullying yourself.

Up until now, you’ve been helping to write your child’s story, but as they grow, you become more of an ‘assistant editor’.

Despite what your child might tell you, you can still offer valuable advice. Remember that it’s important to stay involved in their online lives to help guide them through the tough times.

They actually want you to be there ... but in a way that makes them feel comfortable. We can help you with real stories, practical advice, and everything you need to help your child report cyberbullying.

Trolling

Trolling is when a user anonymously abuses or intimidates others online for fun. They purposely post inflammatory statements, not as a way to bully or harass other people, but to watch the reactions. Trolls enjoy seeing people get worked up about what they post. When they are confronted on their behaviour, they often shrug it off and claim it was all in fun.

Trolling and cyberbullying are sometimes used to mean the same thing, but they're actually a little different. Cyberbullies target someone and repeatedly attack them, while trolls set out to annoy whoever they can. Trolls want to provoke a reaction or response and it’s often not a personal attack because they don’t really care who they upset.

How can I protect myself from trolls?

You can protect yourself and others against trolling by:

  • Ignoring the troll. Don't respond to nasty, immature or offensive comments—giving trolls the attention they want only gives them more power.
  • Blocking the troll. Take away their power by blocking them and if they pop up under a different name, block them again.
  • Reporting trolls to website administrators and if they appear again under a different name, report them again.

If the trolling continues, then the material is deemed cyberbullying. There are a number of ways you can seek assistance in removing the offensive material online.

  • Contact the social media service in which the trolling is taking place. Under new legislation, social media services are now obliged to take down material believed to be of a cyberbullying nature. Most social media services will have a reporting area on their site.
  • Report it. If the social media service fails to remove the material, you can make a complaint by reporting it to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.
  • Talk about it. If a troll upsets you, please talk about it with trusted friends and family and remember, it's not you, it's them.
  • Protect your friends from trolls. If trolls are upsetting a friend, tell them to ignore, block and report the activity. Tell their family and other trusted friends, and encourage them to seek support.

Parentline

Parentline provides help through counselling, information and referral that is tailored to meet each callers' needs.Parentline provides a statewide service to parents and carers of children aged from birth to eighteen years

Each state in Australia has a dedicated parent helpline.

  • Professional counsellors are able to explore a variety of issues that impact on parenting and relationships
  • Parentline can provide contact details for community services
  • Parentline respects the confidentiality and right to privacy of callers

Parentline Victoria:

  • Phone:
    • 13 22 89 (cost of a local call)
    • Open 8am to midnight 7 days a week
  • Website

Report offensive or illegal content

Need assistance reporting offensive or illegal content? This link will take you to an online form that will assist you in making a complaint.

If you are unable to submit your complaint using this form, and you are an Australian resident, you may be able to make a complaint by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In your email provide specific URL information and the reasons why you believe the content is 'prohibited'.

If you want to report criminal activity go to Crime Stoppers online or call 1800 333 000. Reports can be anonymous.

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