Chapter 1 Introduction
The online environment is an integral part of modern economic and social
activities, and a vast resource of information, communication, education and
This chapter introduces the online environment, platforms and access and
the relevant cyber-safety issues and outlines the responsibilities of the
Australian governments. The chapter concludes with an overview of the inquiry
process and an outline of the report.
The online environment
The online environment is an essential tool for all Australians,
including children and young people less than 18 years of age.
The ability to use online tools effectively provides both a skill for life and
the means to acquire new skills.
The Internet brings with it many advantages and benefits to
children; their use of media permits them to gain and share knowledge in a
variety of new and engaging ways. The Web 2.0 world allows children to create
and share their own content and express their ideas, thoughts and experiences
on a worldwide stage. The Internet allows children to go far beyond their homes
and communities; they are able to explore the world, immerse themselves in
different cultures, different geographies and different periods in history with
the click of a mouse. The skills they learn through their online exploration in
early life prepare them for their future, providing them with not just
knowledge but also with abilities far beyond those skills that can be taught in
The power and usefulness of the online environment, and of social
networking sites in particular, was convincingly demonstrated during the
widespread floods in Queensland early in 2011.
The Internet has brought unprecedented freedoms to millions
of people worldwide: the freedom to create and communicate, to organise and
influence, to speak and be heard. The Internet has democratised access to human
knowledge and allowed businesses small and large to compete on a level playing
field. It’s put power in the hands of people to make more informed choices and
decisions. Taken together, these new opportunities are redefining what it means
to be an active citizen.
This environment brings significant benefits by sharing information,
allowing them to keep in touch, at work and at play. As of 21 March 2011,
Facebook advised the Committee that:
Facebook has nearly 11 million active users who have visited
the site in Australia within the past 30 days. Over nine million users visit
every week and over seven million visit every day.
It is also a valuable tool for breaking down physical boundaries. There
are more mobile phones in Australia than people, 78 percent of households have
computer access and 72 percent have Internet access.
Almost half of the mobile phones have an Internet capability and one-third of users
access the Internet regularly on their phones. The benefits can be
multifaceted, for example, for Indigenous young people:
For an Indigenous child it may be a connection to culture. It
may be a connection to religious and spiritual pursuits. It may be a connection
to family in other countries. Whatever that may look like for a child or young
person, it is something that in a non-digital world they may have limited or
very challenging access to.
This environment is not static, and Australians are ‘utterly voracious’
in their adoption of online technologies. As they are introduced, new
applications are therefore likely to be taken up enthusiastically by interested
individuals and groups in the community. Some students continue to use email, however,
there has been a rapid uptake of more portable technologies and social
networking sites to communicate.
Dr Helen McGrath’s research from 2009 suggests that young people use the
Internet for an average of one hour and 17 minutes per day, including almost 50
minutes for messages, visiting social websites and emails; 15 minutes for games
online against other players, and 13 minutes for homework on the computer
and/or the Internet.
While there are potential safety issues for all those who go online, for
the vast majority of users, the online environment is a positive and safe
place. In Australia:
In the 12 months prior to April 2009, an estimated 2.2
million (79%) children accessed the Internet either during school hours or
outside of school hours. The proportion of males (80%) accessing the Internet
was not significantly different from females (79%). The proportion of children
accessing the Internet increased by age, with 60% of 5 to 8 year olds accessing
the Internet compared with 96% of 12 to 14 year olds.
The benefits of online applications for young people in our society are
accompanied by exposure to a range of potential dangers. Some of the most
obvious include cyber-bullying, access to or accessing illegal and prohibited
material, online abuse, inappropriate social and health environments, identity
theft and breaches of privacy.
One thing that both the online and offline world have in
common is that many of these risks are created by the children, either putting
themselves in harm’s way or harming other children. The high profile risks,
which have been reported by media, include the dangers of sexual exploitation
and solicitation, online harassment and exposure to inappropriate images.
However, the principal risks that come with Internet use by children today are
the problems of cyberbullying, sexting, and self-harm websites.
In addition to cyber-safety issues, this environment can also be a veil
for an array of criminal behaviour including various online threats, the sale
of illicit drugs and, increasingly, the sale of illegal pharmaceuticals.
Young people have a limited capacity to make decisions about their own
information. As they must rely on others to ensure that their interests and
rights are protected, they are particularly vulnerable to a range of safety and
criminal activities online.
The Government’s commitment to addressing cyber-safety issues for young
people is reflected in the establishment of this Inquiry in March 2010 as the
response of the Australian Parliament to community concerns about the impact of
threats to young people from the online environment.
Australian authorities have considered problems caused by cyber-crime. A
National Cyber-Crime Working Group was established in May 2010 to enable
jurisdictions to work cooperatively to combat these crimes.
Online crime has no borders and evidence can be transitory, highly
perishable and, often, located overseas. Potential online threats are becoming
more sophisticated through the use of networks to distribute material, and the
protection of material by encryption.
Significant research has been published over many years about the
attitudes and behaviour of those less than 18 years of age in Australia. Given
the speed of recent changes in the range and affordability of ways to enter the
online environment, there is a lack of longitudinal data. Methodologies used
differ from study to study making comparisons difficult in terms of its impact
on that important group. In the absence of such studies, many bodies and groups
appear to have developed ways to correct perceived problems in this
environment, perhaps without an adequate evidential basis.
One witness did not think that ‘much more research is required’, as so
much is already available:
We all know what the problem is ... We have to solve it ... a
greater understanding of what is available from technology could help the
broader community focus...
Defining the online environment
Throughout this Inquiry, the term ‘online environment’ was widely used
without any attempt to define it. The Stride Foundation
drew attention to some of the components of this environment, generally
delivered through Internet platforms.
This environment covers many means of informing and communicating with
people. It is invisible, and for most urban Australians, can be accessed
virtually: anywhere, at any time, from many devices, using any of those
technological means. For most Australians, this environment can also be
accessed with relative ease from a wide variety of locations: at home, work,
school, libraries, university, TAFE colleges, public institutions such as art
galleries, Internet cafes, coffee shops, book stores, etc.
The online environment allows users to do many things, including for
example: sending/receiving emails/texts; sending images and making phone calls
via Skype; paying bills; searching for and downloading material from websites
(including for e-books); retrieving music, TV programs or movies; taking and
sending photographs; joining chat rooms or live discussion forums; writing
blogs; listening to FM or digital radio, etc.
Apart from the mobile phone, the Internet remains the best known, and
most used platform or application in the online environment. As Professor
Landfeldt noted, the Internet is a ‘very fragmented world’ with a large number
of computing devices connected via communication links all using some common
standards, such as the Internet Protocol. It is a platform on which a wide
range of different and accessible content can be found.
The most commonly accessed content is within one of these services, the
world wide web. It is far from certain that it will remain the dominant
platform for information exchange and retrieval in the future.
There are now some very interesting developments from
Stanford University and Berkeley that together have come up with an alternative
routing infrastructure that goes to the core of forwarding traffic on the
internet, changing the very fabric of forwarding. This is gaining traction with
the big manufacturers ... There are also big efforts in putting anonymisation
into the network and security so that, instead of having completely open
channels for all communication, you are looking more at securing your data
transfers, because it is not up for grabs for the entire world. It is very easy
to wire tap and look at data that goes across the internet today. But there are
clear signs that there is a lot of interest in changing that.
The online environment is constantly changing, with newer alternatives
fast gaining ground. The ability to communicate has expanded greatly in the
past few years through the widespread use of social networking sites. In
Australia, the fraction of peer-to-peer traffic is ever-increasing and the
uptake of alternative media consumption is growing, particularly live streaming
video and audio.
The Internet is the most frequently used source of information and
advice for young people. This opens up a range of possibilities, including
concerns that access might be to the ‘not-so-great’ sites that also exist. Of
course, as well as these online resources, there are organisations like Berry
Street and the Inspire Foundation offering support to young people on a range
of issues through their mental health and well-being programs.
Many people now navigate via a Global Positioning Satellite. Gaming
consoles such as Xbox and Playstation can also be part of the online
environment, as can other communications services such as YahooMail and MSN.
The Internet and other platforms can now be easily accessed on
increasingly capable mobile phones and smartphones, tablets, personal digital
assistants, etc. These are more powerful and provide greater options for
communication than advanced desktop machines of only a few years ago.
Laptops have become smaller and lighter, and ‘notebook’ variants are highly
The online environment has changed greatly following the introduction of
popular social networking sites and feeds, such as Facebook, Bebo and Twitter
and includes sites for the very young such as Club Penguin. Individuals elect to
join these sites, providing photographs and information about themselves and
their activities. Other people are asked to join as ‘friends’, to be in contact
and exchange information and photographs, etc. Originators have some control
over the release of personal information. The contents of individuals’ account
are monitored by the sites. Considerable publicity has been given to the risks
implicit in the use of these sites.
As the applications mentioned above are not intended to be a definitive
list, in this Report the broadest possible range will be treated as belonging
to the online environment.
Access to the online environment
The System Administrators’ Guild of Australia referred to Australian
Bureau of Statistics’ figures which showed that, at December 2009, there were
over nine million business and personal subscribers to Internet services in
Australia. ABS also found that, in 2009, 72 percent of Australian houses have
Internet access, and that 79 percent of children five to 14 years old used the
Internet. At that time, homes were slightly more usual sites for usage than
schools: 73 to 69 percent.
- Computers were
available in more than 71% of households with 3–4 year olds, increasing to more
than 90% of homes with 7–8 year olds, and in almost all households with 8–17
year olds (98%).
- Internet access was
available in more than 65% of households with 3–4 year olds, increasing to more
than 72% of homes with 7–8 year olds, 87% of homes with 8–11 year olds, and
more than 90% of households with 12–17 year olds.
- Eighty-four percent
of 7–8 year olds sometimes used the Internet at home to find information for
school, send emails, chat online, surf the internet, play games, or to
access/download music or movies.
- Among 8 to
17-year-olds, use of the Internet for homework and leisure activities increased
with age, from 61% of 8–11 year olds, to 83% of 12–14 year olds and 88% of
15–17 year olds.
- Some 74% of parents
of 7–8 year olds in the study were happy with their child’s media use.
While these figures suggest an online society, some people do not own
computers. Public libraries, government cafes for older people or Internet
cafes are often their only means of access to the Internet, emails, etc. While
some places are not accessed often by the community, for some users, they may
be their only access points.
Research by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in
2009 showed that:
The Internet is a regular part of the everyday lives of
children and young people aged eight to 17 years, and it is used regularly
within both school and home environments.
ACMA added that the use of the Internet, including finding information
for academic purposes, and social networking can become regular from the age of
Australia now has a generation of people who have never been without
online access and have integrated it fully into their lives. Another
generation, brought up in the time of other communications systems, may not
fully understand or utilise technology in the same way. In between these
groups, there are many other people whose interest and skills in the online
environment depend on the situation in which they find themselves. The latter
groups can feel disempowered in situations where young people may know far more
about the online environment than they do.
People less than 18 years old can easily bypass physical access points which
may have filters or other safety measures. Many submissions dealt
with a proposed mandatory, national, filtering system.
That there are groups of parents/carers with different levels of
expertise, time and interest is important when considering ways to integrate
these groups into school communities. This issue will be addressed in Chapter
Worldwide, Facebook has over 500 million active users: less than 12
percent are less than 18, more than half are over 35, while the fastest growing
demographic is between 40 and 60 years old. It has been estimated
that ‘about half’ the Internet users in Australia are on Facebook. An
Australian study revealed that 61 percent of all mothers aged from 45 to 65
years had a Facebook page. Nevertheless, young people and adults use this
technology in different ways. Dr McGrath considered that all adults do not
organise their social lives using social networking sites, and often fail to understand
this use of technology.
While most Australian children have access to the online environment at
a variety of places and via a range of platforms, there are other groups who
are disadvantaged. Lack of access to the online environment can have particular
impacts on some children, and this will be
addressed in Chapter 2.
The Interactive Games & Entertainment Association pointed out that
new and evolving technologies are and will be central to the lives of young
people, to be adapted, discarded, rapidly and often indiscriminately. The
Association believed that young people should be granted freedom to explore and
interact in the online environment. At the same time, steps must be taken to
minimise inherent risks and to provide the same levels of caution exercised as
in the ‘real’ world.
Protection of young people is compacted by the rapid evolution of
technology, and the fact that education, research and the law inevitably lag
behind these developments. While access is easy and
varied, many young people are not aware of or disregard possible consequences
of their actions in the online environment. These consequences can be serious
and last forever.
The term ‘cyber-safety’ was used widely throughout the Inquiry. As it
was largely undefined, its meaning and scope were unclear and there is a need
to identify the key issues to clarify some of the myths surrounding it.
Mr Geordie Guy stated that it was ‘a made-up term or a ‘“neologism”...
native to the Australian government, child protection agencies... and
organisations seeking to commercially supply solutions to the perceived
problem’, and that there was no such globally accepted term.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner noted that it is ‘a broad concept
that concerns minimising the risks to children online from a range of negative
influences including inappropriate social behaviours, abuse, identity theft and
breaches of privacy.’ This concept will be
used in this Report.
The Australian Psychological Society noted that, while there are risks
in the online environment, they were often ‘over-exaggerated’ with the media
portraying worst case scenarios. ‘Technology’ is often blamed for behaviour
rooted in wider social problems, and in the range of issues characterising
Most young people are aware of cyber-safety measures and have
incorporated these practices into their everyday online activities. The
‘average’ young person seems to have mechanisms to deal with online risks: good
family or peer-to-peer relationships and critical decision-making skills. It is
often the marginalised young people, disconnected from the community, for whom
cyber-safety can become an issue.
Adult responses to cyber-safety issues
The Cooperative Research
Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing noted that conventional
approaches to cyber-safety for young people tend to focus on risk management,
typically through educational and regulatory means.
The Centre believed that thinking about cyber-safety in these terms
failed to acknowledge the expertise of young people in technology and the use
of the Internet. Most cyber-safety programs are delivered at schools, removed
from other settings, such as family or work, and the social relationships with
peers, parents/carers and other adults in which young people regularly engage.
The focus on cyber-safety and risk management means, therefore, that
there is relatively little evidence about adults’ concerns about the online
environment, and particularly about young people’s use of social networking sites.
The Centre stated that it is vital that young people’s perspectives are
incorporated in the cyber-safety debate in ways that empower them and develop
meaningful policies and programs.
Parents/carers have the ultimate responsibility for educating and protecting
their children, including in the online environment. Adults and young people
use technology in different ways, and new communications technologies are
becoming increasingly foreign to many parents/carers, thus ‘reducing their
ability to protect their children.’ More often than not, children know more
about the Internet and mobile phones, etc, than adults. Rapidly emerging new
technologies are increasingly leaving many adults behind.
Moreover, parents/carers often feel an additional lack of involvement or
control because they do not fully understand how their children use their
knowledge about the online environment, and are fearful about online risks.
Teachers may also have a limited understanding of children’s use of technology.
Parents/carers and teachers can therefore have such limited understanding and
awareness of the issues that they are ‘very reluctant’ to deliver, and totally
lack confidence in delivering, such curriculum material or information about
cyber-safety as is available in Australia.
As seen by adults, threats implicit in the online environment include:
‘Internet addiction’; and
lack of sleep.
Some young people are ‘fearless but naïve’
and dismissive of these risks and fears. They can be more concerned about slow
Internet connections and viruses on their computers. For example, the Alannah
and Madeline Foundation noted that ‘nearly all’ the young people it has
interviewed have experienced or witnessed cyber-bullying, and consider it
‘common and extremely unpleasant’. With other online
threats, these matters will be addressed in Part 2 and the results of the
Committee’s Are you safe online survey are provided throughout the
Australian Government responsibilities
Many Australian Government Departments and agencies have policy and
regulatory responsibilities in the online environment.
The Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy
is responsible for developing a vibrant, sustainable and internationally
competitive broadband, broadcasting and communications sector and through this,
promote the digital economy for the benefit of all Australians.
Within that Department, the Australian Communications and Media
Authority (ACMA) has been operating in cyber-safety space for more than ten
years. Via the Online Content Scheme, in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
(the Act), its role is:
- to investigate
complaints about prohibited and potentially prohibited online content, and
- to facilitate a
system of co-regulation where the internet industry develops codes of practice
that are registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Under the Act, the Authority is also responsible for liaison with
regulatory and other relevant overseas bodies to develop cooperative
arrangements for the regulation of the Internet. This includes issuing
take-down notices to Australian hosts of prohibited content, and a blacklist of
a range of inappropriate sites.
ACMA undertakes research into the online environment, and has a
significant range of effective educational programs. Increasingly, ‘a large
part’ of its role, resources and activities is in delivering a broad range of
cyber-safety, educational and awareness programs.
Chaired by a senior officer from the Department, the Consultative
Working Group on Cybersafety was established in 2008 to advise the
Australian Government on best practice safeguards and priorities for action by
government and industry. It comprises representatives from industry, community
organisations and Government bodies such as the Australian Communications and
Media Authority, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Federal
Police. The Working Group is
consider those aspects of cyber-safety faced by Australian
- provide information to Government on measures required to operate
and maintain world’s best practice safeguards for Australian children engaging
in the digital economy; and
- advise the Government on priorities for action by government and
The Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety and the Youth Advisory
Group are the Government’s main vehicles for cyber-safety consultation. The
Youth Advisory Group provides the Government with advices about issues such as
law enforcement, filtering, education and research initiative from a young
person’s perspective. The Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety considers
that the Youth Advisory Group will continue to be crucial in providing the
views of children and young people about:
the nature of young people’s online engagement;
emerging cyber-safety risks; and
how best to tackle these risks from the young person’s
In December 2010, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the
Digital Economy, Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, launched the Cyber Safety Help
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
provides national leadership in education and workplace training, transition to
work and conditions and values in the workplace. As one of the current
initiatives, the Australian Government is providing $2.4 billion over seven
years to contribute to teaching and learning in Australian schools, preparing
students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital
world. Through the Digital Education Revolution, funding has been provided for:
New information and communications technology equipment for all
secondary schools, for students in Years 9 to 12, through the National Secondary
Schools Computer Fund;
Deployment of high speed broadband connections to schools;
Collaboration with States/Territories and Deans of Education to
ensure new and continuing teachers have access to training in the use of ICT
that enables them to enrich student learning;
Online curriculum tools and resources supporting the national
curriculum and specialist subjects such as languages;
Parents to participate in their children’s education through
online learning; and
Supporting mechanisms to provide vital assistance for schools in
the deployment of ICT.
The Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for
administering Government policy on criminal law and law enforcement, including
cyber-crime, cyber security and anti-discrimination. This includes such issues
as cyber-racism, identity security and classification, grooming and procuring offences
by targeting predatory behaviour occurring through carriage services.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is the principal law
enforcement agency through which the Australian Government pursues its law
enforcement interests. The AFP is unique in Australian law enforcement in that
its functions relate both to community policing and to investigations of
offences against Commonwealth law enforcement in Australia and overseas. It has
responsibilities for child protection matters.
The Australian Institute of Criminology is Australia's national
research and knowledge centre on crime and justice. It seeks to promote justice
and reduce crime by undertaking and communicating evidence-based research to
inform policy and practice. Its functions include conducting criminological research;
communicating the results of research; conducting or arranging conferences/seminars; and publishing material arising from its work.
It has worked closely with the Attorney-General’s Department, the AFP
and other agencies to undertake research into technology-enabled crime. In
2007, the Institute was commissioned to report on existing literature
concerning the use of social networking sites for sexual grooming, the extent
and nature of the problem, and effective ways in which to address it. The
resulting publications have been cited many times in this Report.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is an independent
statutory body whose purpose is to promote and protect privacy in Australia.
Established under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), it has responsibilities
for the protection of individuals’ personal information handled by Australian
and Australian Capital Territory Government agencies, and personal information
held by all large private sector organisations, health service providers and
some small businesses.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible
for the prosecution of criminal offences against the laws of the Commonwealth,
and to conduct proceedings for the confiscation of the proceeds of crimes
committed against the Commonwealth.
In the context of this Inquiry, the role of the Australian Customs
and Border Protection Service is to regulate the movement of prohibited and
restricted goods across Australia’s borders, including goods purchased on the
The Commonwealth Ombudsman safeguards the community in its
dealings with Australian Government agencies. It handles complaints,
conducts investigations, performs audits and inspections, encourages good
administration, and carries out specialist oversight tasks.
State and Territory responsibilities
School education, policing and legal matters within each jurisdiction
are primarily responsibilities of State/Territory governments. These matters
will be addressed in relevant parts of this Report.
Current Parliamentary inquiries
In March 2011, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband
Network was formed to inquire into and report on the rollout of the Network. It
will provide progress reports every six months, from 31 August 2011, to both
Houses of Parliament and shareholder Ministers on a range of matters related to
the Network until completion and it is operational.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and
Communications is inquiring into the role and potential of the National
Broadband Network. The Committee is due to report its findings by the end of
Previous Parliamentary reports
On 7 April 2011, the Senate Environment and Communications References
Committee tabled a report titled The adequacy of protections for the privacy
of Australians online. It made several recommendations that are relevant to
this Inquiry, and these will be addressed in Chapter 5.
The 2010 Report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Hackers,
Fraudsters and Botnets: Tackling the Problem of Cyber Crime, addressed ‘the
incidence of cybercrime on consumers’. This Report examines different but
related issues. It seeks to make its contribution to knowledge of the benefits
of, and the potential perils created by, the online environment. These perils
are especially important for users who are less than 18 years old.
Other relevant reports include:
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment,
Education and Training: Sticks and Stones: Report on Violence in Australian
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications,
Information Technology and the Arts: From Reel to Unreal: Future
opportunities for Australia's film, animation, special effects and electronic
games industries (2004);
Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications and
the Arts: Sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment (2008);
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community,
Housing and Youth: Avoid the Harm - Stay Calm. Report on the Inquiry into
the impact of violence on young Australians (2010).
In 2009, the NSW Legislative Council’s General Purpose Standing
Committee (No 2) released a report Inquiry into Bullying of Children and Young
People. A number of its recommendations concerned cyber-bullying.
Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry
The Government has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to review
the definition of ‘Refused Classification’ material, as part of a wider review
of the National Classification System.
Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety
Conduct of the Inquiry
In the last Parliament, the House of Representatives agreed to establish
the Committee on 25 February 2010. On 11 March 2010, the Senate agreed to this
proposal. As the Inquiry was incomplete at the prorogation of that Parliament,
In the 43rd Parliament, the House of Representatives agreed
on 16 November 2010 to the re-establishment of the Committee, with slightly
different terms of reference. The Senate agreed on 17 November 2010. The
revised terms of reference can be found at p. xxi.
The Committee wrote to all Ministers, State Premiers/Chief Ministers,
organisations and individuals who had forwarded submissions to the original
Inquiry seeking additional submissions.
The Inquiry was advertised in The Australian at fortnightly
intervals, and featured on a number of occasions in About the House and
Sky News, House of Representatives Alert Services, Facebook, Google and
In all, 152 submissions and 16 supplementary submissions were received
in response to the invitations to contribute to the Inquiry. A list of
submissions is at Appendix A.
A list of other documents of relevance to the Inquiry that were formally
received by the Committee as Exhibits is at Appendix B.
Three roundtable discussions were held in Melbourne and Sydney in June
and July 2010. Evidence was given by:
The information and communications technology industry;
The Australian Federal Police;
Non-government organisations working with young people;
Professional bodies and unions;
Representatives of parents/carers;
Corporations such as Telstra and Symantec; and
Content providers such as Yahoo!7.
The Committee also took evidence at public hearings in Adelaide,
Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart and Melbourne. A list of organisations and
individuals who gave evidence to the Inquiry at the roundtables and public
hearings is at Appendix C.
In addition, the Committee conducted two school forums, one at McGregor State
School in Brisbane for Grade 7 students, and the other for Years 9 to 12 in
Hobart with students attending from Calvin Secondary School; Cosgrove High
School; Elizabeth College; Tasmanian Academy; Guilford Young College; MacKillop
Catholic School; New Town High; Ogilvie High School; and St Michael’s
The Committee also conducted two online surveys of young people in
relation to cyber-safety issues. A total of 33,751 young people completed:
18,159 for those less than 12 years old and 15,592 for 13 to 18 year olds.
Additional information and the methodology used in the survey is at Appendix D.
Table 1.1 Number of survey respondents by gender and age
Figure 1.1 Number of survey respondents
by gender and age
Figure 1.2 Committee
Chair, Senator Dana Wortley, during a small group discussion with students at
McGregor State School.
Figure 1.3 The
Committee during discussions with students and teachers at McGregor State
Copies of all submissions and transcripts that were authorised for
publication are available electronically from the Committee’s website, at
Overview of this Report
The structure of this Report is based on the Inquiry’s Terms of
Part 1: Introduction
Part 1 provides the necessary background material to the Inquiry. This
section defines and describes the online environment, and defines
‘cyber-safety’. It outlines the roles of Commonwealth, State and Territory
Government departments and agencies with policy and regulatory
responsibilities, in general terms, in the online environment. It then describes
legal responsibilities for combating online crime in Australia.
Chapter 2 outlines the environment in which young people find
themselves, including the major stakeholders. It describes two potential
problem areas for young people: ‘real’ and ‘online’ worlds and privacy. There
are at least four groups of young adults who are disadvantaged in the online
environment. While they may have access via school libraries, their entry to it
can be problematic. Some of the negative features of that environment, for
adults and parents/carers particularly, is then outlined.
Part 2: Cyber-safety
The four Chapters of Part 2 should be regarded as a unit. Chapters 4 to
6 deal with specific abuses of cyber-safety; cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking,
online grooming , sexting, privacy and identity theft, and other cybersafety
complexities such as fraud, ‘technology addictions’, online gambling and
illegal and inappropriate content. Chapter 7 outlines the responses of young
people to the Committee’s online survey in relation to how young people make
the decision on whether or not to post.
Part 3: Educational strategies
Part 3 covers the measures necessary to support schools, teacher and the
wider school community. Chapter 8 explores a range of ways to support schools
to increase cyber-safety and, in particular, to reduce cyber-bullying. Chapter
9 focuses on support for teachers and chapter 10 looks at the broader school
Part 4: Enforcement
This part of the report outlines the various legal and policing aspects
of these abuses, including existing Commonwealth and State/Territory sanctions
against them. Chapter 11 outlines legislative approaches. Chapter 12 addresses
policing. Chapter 13 focuses on the proposal to establish an online ombudsman
to act on cyber-safety issues.
Part 5: Australian and international responses
Chapter 14 deals with achieving best practice in Australia by government
initiatives, industry and non-government organisations. Similarly Chapter 15
examines various international responses to cyber-safety issues.
Chapter 16 examine the likely benefits of new and existing technologies.
Chapter 17 focuses specifically on the mandatory national filtering system
Part 6: Conclusions
Chapter 18 summarises the views of students, and report’s conclusions
are in Chapter 19.
Results of the Inquiry
To involve young people, and hear what they have to say, an online survey
was undertaken. As noted above, 33,751 responses were received, and the results
are used throughout this Report. It gains depth from some very informative and
sometimes distressing, anonymous contributions.
The most significant, general points to emerge from the range of
material received by this Inquiry included:
the need for children and young people to be in control of their
own experiences in the online environment through better education, knowledge
the need for enhanced privacy provisions in the online
the short-term need for more detailed and longitudinal Australian
research on how young people are interacting with the online environment, and
emerging technologies in particular. Then based on that research, there is a
requirement for a cooperative national response, based on a range of
educational programs. To be effective, a combination of carefully designed and
targeted programs is needed for the use of parents/carers and teachers, and the
varied needs of the different developmental stages of Australian young people;
the need for parents/carers, teachers and all those who engage
with young people to become more informed, and gain an understanding of online
technology and its many uses.