Recently we have seen media reporting highlighting the risks young people, particularly young women, are facing online. The website in question was taken down for a time but it has reportedly been relaunched. The people posting on this site and encouraging others to find compromising images display no consideration for the impact their actions have on the young women being objectified.
The Queensland community has demonstrated commitment to eradicating domestic and family violence. If we are to create a society where all people are equal and the safety and wellbeing of all young people is seen as everyone’s responsibility, then we need to step up and educate young people about respectful relationships and how to remain safe in online environments. Adults should be concerned if they see young people discussing sex in a way which denigrates another person, has no empathy for their feelings or rights and perceives them as an object.
The Queensland Family & Child Commission is committed to keeping young people safe from online sexual exploitation and to increasing community awareness of the issue. Parents and young people need to know the risks of being exploited by online predators is serious and significant. No person who is interacting online is immune from this risk.
Children and young people may not be deliberately seeking out inappropriate content online but may come across it accidentally. They may also share images. This could be to impress, to be liked or to keep up with what they think everyone else is doing. Most teenagers who share images don’t think they will be shared more widely but once an image leaves an online device, there is no control over where it goes and who sees it.
The QFCC is working with the eSafety Commission, Taskforce Argos, Bravehearts and the Department of Education to investigate what we can do better. The messages that are out there now aren’t working. We have adopted a unique approach, working closely with young people to get a better understanding of what:
- they see are the risks
- messages and information which will resonate with them
- will influence them to reconsider what they might be doing online.
In the New Year we will showcase these ideas to a wider audience and then develop campaign materials for the whole community.What can parents and adults do now to protect children online? I encourage all parents and adults who have contact with children and young people to visit the iParent section of the eSafety Commission’s website. There is an extensive range of hints, tips and resources.
- adults need to be vigilant about what children are doing online
- they need to take the time to understand the technology and programs children are using so they can have informed conversations
- they need to have open conversations with children
- children need to trust they can talk honestly with adults about online activities/conversations which make them feel uncomfortable or worried.
Critically, adults need to model good behaviour themselves. If parents don’t want their children to post photos online then they need to consider whether they are modelling that it is ok to share photos of everything they do on their social media accounts.
Cheryl VardonPrincipal Commissioner
20 October 2016 - Generation sext forum - Cheryl Vardon and a panel of experts discuss young people's safety online