eSafety commissioner urges parents to be alert to online dangers

eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant says
eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant says "parents are the front line of defence" online. Picture: Shutterstock

Four in 10 Australian teenagers have had negative online experiences including cyberbullying, harassment and unwanted contact from a stranger, and most of it is happening with parents nearby.

eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said there had been a rise in self-produced child sexual abuse materials, which were a result of brazen requests for nude images through to sophisticated grooming efforts from predators.

"This is happening under parents' noses in the home," Ms Inman Grant said.

"We want them to be alert but not alarmed."

A survey of 627 young Australians aged 12-17 found just over four in 10 respondents had at least one negative online experience in the six months to September 2020 and three in 10 had unwanted contact from a stranger.

It found teenagers spent an average of 14.4 hours a week online and used an average of four different social media services.

The popularity of established social media services was on the slide with 72 per cent on YouTube, 57 per cent on Instagram, 52 per cent on Facebook and 45 per cent on Snapchat.

TikTok had seen huge uptake with 37 per cent of teenagers on the video-sharing app in 2020, compared with 12 per cent in 2017 when it was known as Musical.ly.

Discord, the chat service popular with the online videogame community, was used by 19 per cent of Australian teenagers.

Online gaming had become another honeypot for online predators, with Twitch becoming a new distribution system for abuse.

eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said parents were the front line of defence against online abuse. Picture: Supplied

eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said parents were the front line of defence against online abuse. Picture: Supplied

Ms Inman Grant said the agency had seen a dramatic increase in image-based abuse, especially on Instagram and Snapchat, which was not surprising.

However, what they found surprising was the amount of child sexual abuse out in the open on major platforms as more children spent time online unsupervised.

"Parents are the front line of defence," she said.

The commissioner saw a rise in cyberbullying complaints during the school term and a drop during school holidays, suggesting cyberbullying was driven by face-to-face interactions at school.

The good news was the eSafety commissioner had an 85 per cent success rate in getting photos and videos removed from online platforms and it had not had to resort to formal enforcement action with platforms. It's so successful they've had to filter out requests from people overseas who were desperately trying to get material taken down.

The eSafety commissioner had been working with the fragmented school system and the early childhood sector to make sure discussions around online safety started early and often - especially since 40 per cent of parents had given a two-year-old access to a digital device.

In time for Safer Internet Day, celebrated worldwide on Tuesday, the eSafety commissioner has released a song by Lah-Lah called My Family Rules and a picture book called Swoosh, Glide and Rule Number 5.

And what was rule number five? Don't take devices to bed.

NEGATIVE ONLINE EXPERIENCES

Reported by 12-17 year-old Australians in the six months to September 2020:

  • 30 per cent contacted by a stranger
  • 20 per cent sent inappropriate content
  • 16 per cent had other negative experiences
  • 16 per cent excluded from events/social groups
  • 15 per cent had things said about them to damage their reputation
  • 15 per cent received online threats or abuse
  • 8 per cent had personal information or photos misused
This story Online abuse 'happening under parents' noses': eSafety commissioner first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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