Chapter 14 Australian responses to cyber-safety issues
Australia’s response to cyber-safety issues has been largely
educational. International responses to cyber-safety issues will be set out in
Australian Government responses
Responses to the range of cyber-safety issues are fragmented across
agencies and jurisdictions.
Australian Communications and Media Authority
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is located
within the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. It is
responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, radio-communications,
telecommunications and online content. This includes the Internet, radio and
TV, phones and licences for consumers and industry.
ACMA has a range of important, free resources in place to improve
cyber-safety: a Cyber Safety Help Button was launched at the end of 2010, while
a collection of programs has been in operation for some time.
Since 2000, it has undertaken a sequence of research projects exploring
children’s use of online technologies, with a focus on the home environment.
It has also conducted a three-year
program of research examining developments in safety initiatives around the
world aimed at protecting both minors and adults.
In addition to its research and promotional activities, ACMA has other
- The Cybersmart
website and the suite of education resources for young people and teachers
contained on that site;
Development for Educators;
- Internet Safety Awareness
Presentations for students, parents and teachers;
- Pre-service teacher
training program; and
- The public libraries
suite of resources.
As already noted, at the National Day of Action Against Bullying and
Violence on 18 March 2011, it staged a national Cybersmart Hero event created to tackle
cyber-bullying. This is a one-hour, in-school, on-line activity for students in
Years 5 and 6 that addresses the responsibilities of the people in the best
position to influence bullying and cyber-bullying: the bystanders.
On 18 March, ACMA also provided a suite of lesson plans for teachers on
how to prevent and manage cyber-bullying. These plans bring the discussion into
the open, and encourage students to tell their parents/carers or teachers when
they are aware of cyber-bullying.
Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth), ACMA has the
regulatory responsibility for a hotline where complaints can be made about
offensive and inappropriate content. It has observed a ‘steady increase’ in the
number of complaints, particularly relating to online child abuse and child
sexual abuse material hosted overseas. It is the primary agency
for removing online content and works with the Australian Federal Police (AFP),
which assess information to decide whether there should be an investigation. If
a website is hosted offshore, these authorities are limited in what they can
Roar Educate commented that ACMA’s predominant resources were derived
from the United Kingdom’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and
have been available for ‘five or six years’. 
ACMA pointed out that its research programs had been progressively
redesigned to incorporate the views of children and young people, with findings
indicating that issues such as cyber-bullying have been of increasing concern. Click
and Connect: Young Australians’ use of online social media sought to
understand the extent to which young people use social networking and their
experiences in dealing with risks online.
The Cybersmart website is the cornerstone of ACMA’s Cybersmart
program. It acts as a ‘one-stop’ shop for general cyber-safety information,
with information targeted to six specific audiences:
‘young children’ (not defined);
Under the Cybersmart brand, ACMA delivers a ‘diverse,
comprehensive and effective range’ of programs and resources tailored to meet
the needs of teachers, parents/carers, librarians and young people.
These programs have proven to be ‘extremely popular’ and continue to be in high
It noted that online safety messaging had generally assumed that any
degree of risk was negative, while emerging research suggested that a certain
level of risk taking was necessary for the development of resilience in young
people. Its research programs
had therefore been progressively redesigned to incorporate the views and
experiences of young people.
There have been 2,335 separate Internet Safety Awareness
presentations and professional development workshops, with participants from
over 3,300 schools;
263,000-plus teachers, students and parents have attended one
hour general Internet safety awareness presentations;
Over 7,500 teachers have participated in free full-day professional
There have been 6.6 million page views of the Cybersmart
More than 2.6 million hard copy Cybersmart resources have
been distributed to schools, community groups and families across Australia.
ACMA noted that its resources continued to be in ‘high demand’, and were
‘widely acknowledged’ as based on evidence and world–class. Tributes were paid
to the quality and range of its material.
Cybersafety Help Button
The Cybersafety Help Button launched on 10 December 2010 was developed
in response to advice from the Youth Advisory Group. This body said that it
would like a ‘one-stop-shop’ for cyber-safety advice and assistance.
The Button provides users, particularly children and young people but also
parents/carers and teachers, with easy online access to a wide range of cyber-safety
and security resources to help with cyber-bullying, unwanted contacts, scams,
frauds and inappropriate material.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
We have taken very seriously the advice that the children
have given us. Indeed, the button was as a result of their advice. They said,
‘Look, it’s all bewildering. We don’t know where to go. You can’t expect us to
remember all these government websites. They’re changing all the time. We’re
confused. We want a one-stop shop. Make it easier for us so that we can press
the one button and go to all the sites that are relevant. That would make life
a lot easier.’ So we proceeded to develop the button.
This Help Button is based around three actions that a user can take if
there are concerns about material online:
talking to a professional, either over the phone or online;
reporting matters that may be of concern to a range of agencies;
learning about cyber-safety.
There are also proposals to extend the features of the Help Button. For
example, social networking site and games that are popular with children have
conditions of use which are long, detailed and legalistic:
It is very difficult for a 12-year-old to try to understand
all of that legalistic language. More often than not, they will just scroll to
the bottom of the page and click ‘I Agree’ and then proceed, and they will not
read it. But they are saying, ‘Sometimes I am clicking yes to something and I
have no idea what I’m doing but, because my mate did it ... they were looking
for was some easy way in which they could understand the key features of each
of the different social networking sites and popular games: some really simple,
attractive format. So we are looking to add as a feature of the button an
ability for children—and, indeed, parents and teachers, if they wish—to find
out about the latest game or the latest social networking site and what the key
features of it are and what they need to understand about it. That will, I
think, assist both children and parents when they make the decision about it.
It is an often difficult decision when the child says, ‘I want to play this’ or
‘I want to go on that. Am I allowed?’ and the parent says, ‘I am not sure. I
don’t know what you’re talking about.’ This may help parents by providing them
with some sort of guide in that regard.
While user downloads continue to increase, numbers do not accurately
reflect actual usage, as the Help Button can be downloaded once and applied to
multiple sites or computers.
The Department is seeking to expand progressively what is behind the
three actions already on the Help Button. Work has also begun on a second stage
that will include an application compatible with mobile platforms and
browser-level applications. This work is expected to be completed in the second
half of 2011. It is also intended to add advice on the range of options that
are available about localised filtering systems.
Promoted by members of the Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety,
the Help Button has been downloaded by the Queensland Department of Education
and Training across its network and is available on over 177,000 computers in
that State. There are, therefore, ‘at least 200,000’ of these Buttons on a
range of computers around Australia. Other State/Territory school systems have
been encouraged to adopt the Help Button, as have libraries.
BraveHearts believes that online reporting systems are important tools
in responding to child exploitation. The use of hotlines provided an
alternative to reporting to law enforcement agencies to which people may be
reluctant to report illegal content.
The South Australian Office for Youth was critical of the Help Button
because it believed that, although there is a button to report matters online,
it goes to a page that is not ‘very user friendly’. While it might be
downloaded by parents/carers, doubts were expressed that young people would download
or use it.
Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety
The Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety is an initiative of the Government’s
Cybersafety Plan. It includes representatives of industry and community organisations, and Australian government agencies. Chaired
by a senior officer of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital
Economy, its roles are to:
- Consider all aspects of cyber-safety faced by Australian
Provide information to Government on measures required to operate
and maintain world best practice safeguards for Australian children in the
digital economy; and
Advise the Government on priorities for action by government and
The Working Group’s Terms of Reference specify six areas of focus:
The online environment in which Australian children currently
The nature, prevalence and implications of cyber-safety risks;
Australian and international responses to current cyber-safety
Opportunities for cooperation across Australian and international
Information required to realise the potential for achieving and
continuing world’s best practice of safeguards; and
Ensuring that the Group’s deliberations take account of new technologies.
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) pursues
activities based on the knowledge that the well-being and safety of children
and young people at school is essential for their academic development, and for
that nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion.
The National Safe Schools Framework was originally endorsed by all Australian
Ministers for Education in 2003. It included an agreed ‘set of national
principles to promote safe and supportive school environments, and appropriate
responses to address bullying, harassment, violence, child abuse and neglect’.
Consultations have indicated that the National Safe Schools Framework has
been an effective vehicle for raising community awareness of safe school
environments. It has ‘promulgated a greater understanding and appreciation of
the relationship between such environments, student well-being and improved
Following a review in 2009, a revised Framework was endorsed in 2010 and
launched on 18 March 2011, to coincide with the National Day of Action Against
Bullying and Violence. The revised National Safe Schools Framework will be
distributed to all primary and secondary schools.
The Australian Government and State/Territory education authorities are
represented on the Safe and Supportive Schools Communities project management
group. This is a cross-jurisdictional forum enabling identification of emerging
‘national priorities, sharing of knowledge and exchange of effective, evidence-based
This project collaborated in developing a nationally agreed definition
of bullying which has been included in the revised National Safe Schools
Framework. It is intended to use this definition in relevant policies and
DEEWR provides funding and other support for a range of programs and
initiatives, including the seven general capabilities to be addressed in the
Critical and creative thinking;
Personal and social competence; and
The safety of young people in the online environment is paramount, and
$125.8 million has been allocated for a comprehensive Cybersafety Plan that
$49 million over four years to the AFP Child Protection
Operations Team for detection and investigation of online child sex
$42.4 million over four years to develop and implement Internet
service provider-level filtering;
$11.9 million to ACMA to implement a comprehensive range of education
and outreach activities; and
$4.3. million to ACMA over four years to develop a new cyber-safety
website with up-to-date and age-appropriate educational material, and to
improve the online helpline to provide a quick and easy way for children to
report online incidents that cause them concern.
This Plan also recognises the value of young Australians providing
advice to Government on cyber-safety issues by providing $3.7 million over four
years to the Youth Advisory Group and its online forum.
The Attorney-General’s Department has released the Protecting
Yourself online – What everyone needs to know pamphlet and has distributed
270,000 copies. The ID Theft –
Protecting your Identity booklet has had 60,000 copies distributed.
The Australian Education Union encouraged greater interagency
collaboration and made the point that:
It is clear therefore that
there is no shortage of effort going into policy responses to issues of
cyber-safety but perhaps there is evidence of a need for greater inter-agency
cooperation (given programs and policies are being released under the auspices
of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the
Attorney General, and to education departments) and for better engagement
between schools and working within the broader community.
State and Territory Government responsibilities
Authorities in the Australian States and Territories have a range of
responsibilities and programs designed to make young people safe in the online
environment. The submission from the Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety gave
details of State/Territory programs to develop cyber-safety educational
New South Wales
Internet and online communication services are provided in NSW schools
by the Department of Education and Training for research and learning and
communication between students and staff. Access to the online environment
assists students to develop the skills necessary for effective and appropriate
use of the Internet. It also provides a context for learning about roles and
responsibilities in communication, respectful relationships and personal
The KidsMatter and MindMatters initiatives have both been
informed by, and have informed, the development of the National Safe Schools
Framework, with bullying and harassment as one of its target areas.
Since 2007, cyber-safety has been the focus of the bullying and harassment arm
of the project. It has trained 130,000 people across the country and reached 1,500
secondary schools since 2000.
The Department’s Online Communication Services: Acceptable Usage for
School Students policy includes access and security, privacy and
confidentiality, intellectual property and copyright, as well as misuse and
breaches of acceptable use of technology. As part of the
curriculum, students also receive instruction in these issues.
Under an ‘Acceptable Use’ policy, students are aware that:
they are responsible for their actions while using the Internet
and online communication services, and
the misuse of Internet and online communication services may
result in disciplinary action which includes, but is not limited to, the
withdrawal of access to services.
Students are asked to report any Internet sites accessed that are
considered to be inappropriate, as well as any suspected security breach from
other schools, TAFE or from outside the Department.
Senior students in NSW schools have access to the Digital Education
Revolution-NSW wireless network in schools. Their laptops can connect
anywhere students collaborate, study and learn. This wireless network provides
a secure online environment. Laptops are subject to a strict Internet filtering
policy and any site not recognised is blocked, including so-called proxy sites
that enable users to by-pass filters.
A Digital Citizenship education program has been developed that is proposed
for implementation in 2011. This is a strategy to teach students the skills to
be good digital citizens.
The Department is also represented on the Safe and Supportive School
Communities project: a collaborative initiative of Australian governments
overseeing the Bullying, No Way! website. In support of this
initiative, schools are provided with a range of anti-bullying material.
In partnership with the Department and schools, NSW Community Justice
Centres developed a Peer Mediation Program. As one of a broad range of conflict
mediation strategies for schools, it was initiated in 1994 as an early
intervention strategy offering an effective method of dealing with and
resolving some student disputes. The issues and principles raised by
cyber-bullying are similar to those encountered in bullying.
Each NSW school is required to have an anti-bullying policy and, when
required, these matters are initially dealt with internally. Police liaison
officers address cyber-bullying issues in schools, but an incident only becomes
a police responsibility if it involved a criminal offence.
The Digital Citizenship program includes cyber-bullying as a theme in
all years K-10. It promotes the expectation that all students should be active
in preventing it, and understand that even single hostile cyber actions can
have a widespread negative impact because of rapid dissemination and the
relative permanency of sent messages.
The Department places advertisements in daily newspapers describing
‘cyber bullying’, explaining briefly how it occurs, pointing out measures that
can be taken to reduce it and listing contacts for assistance.
To maximise the opportunities presented by new technologies for teaching
and learning, the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood
Development is developing the KnowledgeBank: Next generation portal.
This will provide a range of quality assured and targeted digital resources for
teaching and learning. It will also evaluate and research innovative ways to
use new technologies that suited the way students learn, collaborate and
As part of the Government’s Respect Agenda, the Department is also
developing and would implement a Respect in Schools strategy that
includes advice on dealing with bullying and Cyber-bullying. This strategy
also includes reviewing the Safe Schools are Effective Schools policy,
with a view to replacing it with: Building Respectful and Safe Schools.
The Learning On Line website presented advice for schools on cyber-safety
and the responsible use of digital technologies. It had been developed to help
schools make the most of the opportunities presented by developments in, and
increased accessibility of these technologies. It also sought to support
students using the online environment by minimising risks that may arise.
The Learning on Line Cybersafety pilot program focused on developing
children’s ability to act safely and responsibly in the online world, and to
prepare them effectively to protect themselves online so they can resolve
issues that may arise.
The pilot program is aimed at three levels:
Years 3 and 4 - Cybersmart: What does it mean to be cybersmart?
Years 5 and 6 – Shout Out, Make a Difference.
Years 7 to 10 – Bystanders: What action can I take?
The Youth Central website is an initiative for young people aged from 12
to 25 which devoted a section to ‘Cyber Smarts’. It included guidelines on how
to protect young people from cyber-bullying, tips for keeping the
‘person/private’ balance, and how to be cyber-safe.
In its 2010/2011 Budget, the Victorian Government committed $3.6 million
to enable six community-based organisations to extend their cyber-safety
education programs to more school age children, particularly those from diverse
or marginalised backgrounds who are often at risk of bullying behaviour. It
will fund those organisations to develop young leaders to work with their peers
to help reduce this behaviour, and minimise its impact, by giving vulnerable
young people the skills to keep themselves safe online.
In October 2009, the Department convened the Leading Responsibility in a
Digital World student summit, attended by 230 Year 10 students. It facilitated
discussions between adults and the young people about the issues associated
with the online environment. Students summarised the day’s thoughts and
declared each school’s commitment to take action and lead in this environment.
The Youth Affairs Council Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation
funded by the Victorian Government. It has hosted events that bring together
young people, teachers, service providers and researchers to examine the
prevalence and impact of bullying in the State. It looked for ideas for
interventions and solutions, via such forums as The Sticks and Stones and
Mobile Phones – Bullying in the New Millennium, hosted in August 2009.
The Department is an active member of, and contributes financially to,
the national Safe and Supportive School communities: Finding Workable
solutions for countering bullying, harassment and violence in schools
project for the Australian Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth
Affairs Senior Official’s Committee.
This is the only national project bringing representatives together from
all Australian educational jurisdictions to create safer schools free from
bullying, harassment and violence. The ‘well-known, respected and
comprehensive’ website Bullying, No Way! is an important result of this
In 2010/2011, the project will focus on strategic support for
implementation of the National Safe Schools Framework and related national
priorities with a range of activities.
Victoria actively supports the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and, in
2009, contributed $250,000 to its Cyber Safety and Wellbeing pilot
program, now known as the eSmart program. This will contribute to
ensuring children benefit from the learning opportunities provided by the
online environment in a safe way.
The Queensland Department of Education and Training has built a safe and
secure online learning environment that all students can access from their
homes. They are able to use blogs and a range of resources, as well as engage
with other students through online forums. A great deal of work has been done
to ensure that staff, students and parents/carers are more aware of
cyber-safety and the responsible use of technology. The Department will ensure
that important messages about cyber-safety continue to be shared and reinforced
in school communities.
In 2010, it established the Queensland Schools Alliance Against
Violence. This is a group of key stakeholders, including representatives from
the State, Catholic and Independent school sectors, parents/carers, Principals’
associations, unions and the Commission for Children and Young People and Child
Guardian. Its purpose was to provide advice on best practice to deal with
bullying, cyber-bullying and violence.
The Alliance’s report has been used to develop resources for use in all
schools in the State. These included:
a Declaration against Bullying and Violence;
toolkits for schools and for parents, and
a starter kit for developing local community alliances against
bullying and violence.
Work that has been based on the report’s recommendations will be
reviewed in about September 2012.
Students were consulted about bullying, and recommendations made by Professor
Ken Rigby of were used to advise schools about tackling bullying and
cyber-bullying. In 2010, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg undertook ‘a large number’ of
valuable workshops in ten locations across the State to support and provide
advice to parents/carers, teachers and school leavers about bullying and
cyber-bullying. He has continued to give these workshops in 2011.
The Department will be in partnership with the Alannah and Madeline
Foundation to provide eSmart to all State schools. This is a framework
that guides schools to make sure that they are doing everything they can to
combat cyber-bullying and promote cyber-safety.
As already noted, ACMA’s Help Button has been placed on over 177,000
school-based computers in the State. All schools are required to develop
responsible behaviour plans for students, and these had to be reviewed to
ensure that they included strategies to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying.
The enrolment process includes ‘Acceptable Use’ agreements with parents/carers
about the use of technology by students.
The Department has a repository of resources around bullying and
cyber-bullying, the ‘Bullying.No Way!’ website, provided by the
Australian Government under the Safe and Supportive Schools Communities
The South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services
recognised the issue of bullying in 1996 and detailed it in the school
discipline policy. School communities are encouraged to work together to create
an environment free from harassment and bullying. Since 2005, all Departmental schools
have been required to have an anti-bullying policy and they are now also
encouraged to have a cyber-bullying emphasis. The non-government education
sector has the same requirements.
It has developed the pre-school to Year 12 package Keeping Safe:
Child Protection Curriculum, and trained 17,000 of its 20,000 teachers in
its use. The Catholic sector in South Australia is implementing it, as are
schools in the Northern Territory. It is unique because it connects
cyber-safety with child protection, emphasising the importance of implementing
the document and teaching respect for relationships. It provides advice on
Internet security, including examples of cyber-safety user agreements, and actions
principals can take following a cyber-safety event. It also addresses the issue
of teachers’ digital footprints.
In May 2009, it advised principals on actions that they can take on
cyber-bullying or electronic crime. This clarified their use of disciplinary
powers, including suspension and exclusion, for events occurring beyond the
school gates and outside school hours where the well being of a student,
teacher or member of the school community is affected.
In 2010, the Department:
provided $100,000 in grants to schools to implement innovative
practices. These are being written up for placement on the Department of
Education and Children’s Services website; and
collaborated with the South Australian Police to have
cyber-safety as part of the two-yearly primary schools’ music extravaganza.
In 2005, the South Australian Government formed the Coalition to
Decrease Bullying, Harassment and Violence in South Australian schools. Its
initiatives have included:
The 2006 Safer South Australian Schools Conference;
The pamphlet Cyber bullying, e-crime and the protection of
children and young people, 150,000 copies of which were distributed to all
schools in the State;
Coordination of National Safe Schools Weeks in 2006 and 2007;
Providing advice on the National Safe Schools Framework; and
Support for Dr Barbara Spears of the University of South
Australia to gain a grant from the Commonwealth to capture stories from young
people, their parents and school staff on cyber-behaviour issues. A web site
was developed based on this research. Advice was provided to the school sector,
including the Department’s policy Cyber-safety: Keeping Children Safe in a
Collaboration between the three sectors, public, Catholic and
independent, ‘is not uncommon’ in South Australia, so that a number of child
protection documents are policy in all schools in the State.
The Department referred to the low rate of bullying in South Australia, noting
the suggestion that this was the result of initiatives already undertaken, such
as the Coalition mentioned above, and collaboration between the three schooling
As part of registration in South Australia, teachers are required to
complete Responding to Abuse and Neglect Education and Care training,
and update this every three years. There are elements of cyber-safety in this
training, as it acknowledges that teachers are required to maintain a
professional; presence on the Internet. It also addresses the issue of
teachers’ digital footprints, including those of pre-service teachers who are
likely to use social networks more often than older teachers.
South Australian Office for Youth
In response to a growing concern about the risks to young people
associated with using social networking sites, the South Australian Office for
Youth ran a Social Networking Education and Awareness Campaign in June 2010.
The temporary Safer Social Networking info-line was open from 4 to 11pm
on two days, seeking:
to provide young people and their parents/carers with the
necessary information to enable a better understanding of, and to set, privacy
settings on individuals’ social networking sites; and
to identify key social networking issues for young people.
An online survey was placed on the Office’s website.
The one-stop-shop Cyber Safety Information Portal provided young people
and their parents/carers with a range of information on cyber-safety.
The info-line received 27 calls, and 103 people responded to the survey.
The campaign showed public concern for many of the issues raised in this
Inquiry, including some that were not often publicised, such as underage users,
hacking, how easy it was to lie about identity online and trusting others
without knowing who they were.
In addition to recording concerns about general privacy and identity theft
issues it also revealed two other matters. The first was the need for more
education about other issues not often raised, such as:
Knowing what to do if something happens online;
Understanding users’ rights;
Understanding that the same rules apply online as in the ‘real’
What parents/carers or grandparents can do if they are concerned
about young people’s online safety.
The second matter was enforcement. During the Campaign, the Office
referred 13 callers to police or ACMA to investigate cyber-safety threats. Many
of these callers had already spoken to the police and felt that their concerns
had not been adequately addressed. Others had concerns, e.g. about
cyber-bullying or hate pages on Facebook, but did not know who to contact for
assistance. For example, at that time, the Office believed that there was no
agency clearly responsible for responding to cyber-safety threats, particularly
for young people.
The Australian Education Union referred to the Coalition to Decrease
Bullying, Harassment and Violence in South Australian Schools, commenting that
comprises the 3 main education authorities, (DECS, Catholic
Ed and Independent Schools) together with the University of SA. This coalition
has produced brochures for families etc on Cyber bullying, e-crime and the
protection of children and young people.
The West Australian Education Department has implemented a tiered
approach to filtering Internet access to minimise the risk of student and staff
exposure to inappropriate content. It has a central filtering service blocking
access to approximately 750,000 sites identified as containing content
unsuitable for educational needs. This centrally-managed blacklist is linked to
similar services around the world and is updated daily to reflect changes
occurring on the Internet.
Each school has an Internet filter, enabling a further level of Internet
access to meet local needs best.
Computers used on school networks are supplied with pre-configured
Internet browser software default settings to block certain actions that might
inadvertently lead to sexual content.
A Students Online policy has been introduced for public schools
to establish school-based procedures that both protect and inform students, and
their parents/carers, about use of Departmental online services. All schools
have a local policy all students are required to sign encouraging good practice
and appropriate online behaviour. The Department works closely with ACMA, and has
promoted its Cybersmart initiatives.
The Department accepted that the scale and nature of the Internet was
such that no filtering mechanism could offer protection from all inappropriate
content in a school. When used with user awareness, agreed operating procedures
and adequate supervisory techniques in classrooms, this combination of
technologies and practices provides a high level of protection.
The WA Government supported the Child Health Promotion Research Centre
at Edith Cowan University to develop The Cyber Bullying Formative Study
(2007-2008) to address the rise in Cyber-bullying. This study revealed that
few children who had been victims of bullying online would not discuss the
issue with parents/carers or teachers for fear of having mobile phones or
computers removed, or because they believed that adults were unaware of the
problem and did not know how to prevent it.
It provided $400,000 for the first Youth Summit conducted by the Child
Health Promotion Research Centre as part of its 2007/2008 Study. Two summits were
held to identify effective and appropriate prevention and management strategies
for young people, involving responses coordinated between school and families.
The first Summit enabled 200 Year 10 students to engage in
problem-solving about cyber-bullying. The second was for staff and
parents/carers, and the result was a Declaration presented to the Minister. The
ideas outlined in this document demonstrated the willingness of young people to
own a problem and develop their solutions. It also confirmed ‘that
student-focussed solving of problems is the most powerful strategy to combat
A cross-sectoral and inter-agency body, the Cyber Safety for Children
Working Party, has been set up, the first in Australia to establish links
between stakeholders supporting schools to address online safety issues.
It provides a forum for the discussion and application of findings about the
nature, prevalence, implications of and level of risk associated with
cyber-safety threats, as well as the effectiveness of both Australian and
international responses to safety threats.
The WA Government believes that this Working Party would be an effective
tool to support the cultural change required in schools to reduce the effects
The WA Education Department, the WA Catholic Education Office and the
Australian Independent Schools (WA) have a close relationship with ACMA,
ensuring that all their schools have access to material that it has developed.
The K-10 Syllabus embedded the national Statement of Learning for
Information and Communication Technologies which included building an
understanding of the legal, ethical and health and safety implications of using
the online environment, and responsibilities as users and developers.
A range of evidence-based intervention plans has been developed by the
Child Health Promotion Research Centre to deal with bullying, compatible with
Australian curriculums, programs and practice. As these represent best
practice, the WA Government believes that they should be considered for wider
implementation in Australian schools.
Commissioned by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital
Economy, in 2009 the Child Health Promotion Research Centre conducted a review
of cyber-safety literature. This provided the most recent and comprehensive
review of cyber-safety issues conducted to date in Australia, including best
The Tasmanian Department of Education uses information and
communications technology as a core skill across all areas of the curriculum.
Each school develops a plan for their requirements, with a view to engaging the
local community so that it is clear that responsible use of technology happens
across a day, not simply during school hours. Within a safe and secure
framework, schools have considerable freedom about their technology arrangements,
as well as how they handle difficult issues.
Parents/carers, students and teachers must all sign ‘conditions of use’
forms, and information sessions are organised to educate them about
cyber-safety, these are not mandatory for parents/carers. However, it appears
that ’95-plus percent’ of parents/carers sign and return these agreements, and
use is made of any opportunities that arise for teachers/principals to complete
The Department uses a filtering service provided by Telstra Corporation
that allows sites to be blocked routinely, as well as individual URLs. While
Web 2.0 technologies such as YouTube and Facebook are allowed into schools by
default, primary students are not allowed to access Facebook because of age
restrictions. A high school can decide to block Facebook but, as the aim is to
educate students in the responsible use of technology, a teacher may construct
a lesson using Facebook.
Detailed reports are kept on a range of incidents at schools, and
information is therefore available on students’ use of technology. Strategies
are also in place within schools to support students after events that occur on
social networking sites.
A Memorandum of Understanding has been reached with the Tasmanian Police
because of concerns about the number of violent incidents being filmed on
mobile phones. In operation in part of the State for two years, it is likely to
be extended to the rest of Tasmania later in 2011.
When there has been a violent incident at a school, the police are
notified, their processes are followed and they decide whether to take action
on behalf of the Department. The police can also be involved in approaching,
for example, YouTube through the AFP to remove unsavoury material.
While teachers have to apply periodically for re-registration, unless
they have been outside the profession for some time, there is no requirement
for ‘refresher’ professional courses.
While Departmental schools are able to use ACMA’s Help Button but,
because they can decide how they use it, the rate of introduction has not been
The Northern Territory Government considered that governments had an
important role in developing policies and programs to prevent and deal with all
forms of bullying, including cyber-bullying. They also ensured that schools are
appropriately supported and resourced to provide parents/carers and teachers
with access to training about cyber-bullying and other online safety issues.
Schools in the Northern Territory therefore, have policies, aligned to
the Safe Schools Northern Territory Code of Behaviour. Parents/carers
and students are required to sign an ‘Acceptable Use’ agreement covering in
general terms the inappropriate use of the online environment, including
bullying and harassment.
Positive Behaviour Advisors in schools also taught Student
Representative Councils and School Captains, of public, Catholic and
independent schools, about dealing with cyber-bullying with the expectation
that they will share this approach with their schools.
The Territory’s Education Department is developing a professional
Learning on Demand Module in cyber-safety for its educators to undertake in
2011. It includes information on cyber-bullying, online reputations and
While the sample size of cyber-bullying incidents in the Territory is
insufficient to provide objective analysis, incidents have increased as young
people gain greater online access.
School based police officers in the Territory have a significant role in
the investigation of cyber-bullying complaints, and the delivery of safety
instruction to young adults. They have been delivering education awareness
presentations since 2008.
These have been complemented by the immediate and thorough investigation
of all complaints about cyber-bullying within the school environment, including
requirements for parental/carer support and information on the consequences of
misuse of carriage services. Education and encouragement is also provided to
parents/carers and families to become more conversant with the online
environment, and to monitor actively what young people are accessing on the
The Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Government acknowledged the need to take advantage of
opportunities presented by developments in the online environment, while
recognising the need to educate and protect young people against associated
risks. This environment provided a means for citizens to have access to
information that was consistent with the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT). It
contained provisions about protecting families and children, freedom of
expression and taking part in public life.
The ACT is actively involved in combating cyber-crime and cyber-safety,
both within the Territory and through cooperation with other jurisdictions.
Agencies have introduced programs to educate young people on the safe use of
the online environment, and to equip those in responsible positions with the
skills to address issues that may arise.
The Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT) provides for the
promotion, wellbeing, care and protection of young people in ways that
recognises their right to grow in a safe and stable environment.
Under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children,
initiatives are under way, including:
The ACT Young People’s Plan 2009-2014 took account of
issues of importance to young people, including measures to be taken to address
The ACT Children and Young People’s Commissioner is obtaining the
views of children and young people on issues including the use of online media
tools. The Commissioner will then advise the Government on how to improve
services for this group.
Commenting on programs in the ACT, the Australian Education Union noted
there is a Safe Schools Taskforce which is a cross-sectoral
group with representation from each school sector, the Youth Advisory Council,
parent groups, principals, education unions and ACT Policing. The taskforce
examines policies and procedures and makes recommendations to maintain and
improve the safety of children and young people in ACT schools. These
recommendations have resulted in new or updated policies (including Providing
Safe Schools P-12, Countering Bullying, Harassment and Violence in ACT Public
Schools, the Keeping Children Safe in Cyberspace guide and the Code of Conduct
for public schools, outlining what is expected of all people when on ACT public
school grounds), plus associated pamphlets and posters for schools and
families. The taskforce is currently planning a forum for students on
cyber-safety in 2011.
The Government believed that the ACT is at the forefront of information
and communications technology. It has used the myclasses Virtual
Learning Entertainment Environment since 2003. At the beginning of a school
year, or on enrolment, all students must sign an ‘Acceptable Use’ form before
they can go online. They are monitored while online, and inappropriate websites
are blocked on the school system.
In 2009, a blogging feature for teachers was introduced into the myclasses
environment. When it was apparent that some students were using it
inappropriately, and without teachers’ knowledge, it was removed.
A new Virtual Learning Entertainment Environment, Connected Learning
Communities, has been deployed to all ACT public schools to replace myclasses.
It enables schools to access digital content to enrich programs via the
Internet. During its selection and development, consideration was given to the
level of risk and cyber-safety concerns that it could bring.
The Connected Learning Communities provides teachers with the
opportunity actively to develop essential skills and capabilities in students
to participate safely in the online environment. Its features include:
An ACT Safe-Report Abuse button located at the top of every page.
This would automatically open a new mail message in which students can type in
the issue. The recipient of these messages would be a selected staff member;
The individual user name and password given to each student,
which must be authenticated before access is given to the network, and prevents
students from making anonymous contributions within this environment;
Students and teachers will be able to use a range of social
networking tools that were once unavailable in classrooms because of privacy
issues, and the risks of students engaging online with unknown people. Schools
will be able to select the people with whom their students connect: their year,
the whole school or across schools; and
If students are using the networks inappropriately, monitoring
and tracking systems will allow schools to lock accounts within seconds and
examine the students’ digital footprint.
The ACT works with other organisations, including the AFP, ACMA and the Budd:e
Program, to educate teachers, parents/carers and students about Cyber-safety.
This included the distribution of posters brochures and teaching materials to
schools. Many schools had hosted information nights about safety online and
cyber-bullying, and those which had taken part had indicated that these were
well-received and ‘extremely beneficial’.
While reports of specific incidents are low in the ACT, where cyber use
escalated into bullying behaviour in a school, it is important that schools
respond appropriately. These incidents are dealt with under a range of policy
documents developed in accordance with the National Safe Schools Framework. ACT
policies will be updated to reflect changes that are required in the recent
review of the Framework.
A Safe Schools Taskforce has been created to ensure that the ACT remains
a national leader in tackling bullying at school, and that all ACT schools deal
with it in the same manner. Including systemic Catholic and independent schools
ensures that the best ideas from the three sectors are shared and used for the
benefit of all students.
In 2010, a sub-group of this Taskforce was formed specifically to
consider cyber-safety and cyber-bullying issues.
A forum, involving Year 9 students from all ACT schools, teachers,
parents/carers and organisations such as the AFP, was held in Canberra on 18
Non-government and industry responses
Australian organisations and service providers have taken a range of
measures to encourage cyber-safety, and to combat cyber-bullying in particular.
The following individuals and organisations that participated in the Inquiry have
devised a range of programs dedicated to dealing with the abuse, and to improve
cyber-safety for young people generally.
The Safer Internet Group includes organisations such as the Australian
Council of State School Organisations , the Australian Library and Information
Association, Google, iiNet, the Inspire Foundation, the Internet Industry
Association, the Internet Society of Australia, Internode, the System
Administrators Guild of Australia and Yahoo!.
The Group aims to develop ‘the Internet as a platform for education,
communication and economic activity and acknowledges that for the vast majority
of users, the internet is a safe place’ and:
advocates for effective action to be taken to ensure that
Internet users, and particularly children, have a safe experience online, while
preserving the benefits of open Internet access for all Australians. The SIG
believe that the most effective way to protect Australia’s children on the
Internet is achieved by a combination of safety enhancing measures which
include a primary focus on effective education and comprehensive policing of
The Stride Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to
helping improve the physical, mental and social well-being of young people and
their communities. Its purpose is to empower young people to realise their full
potential, and to have the opportunity for brighter futures. It started as a
peer-support foundation, and now takes on the cultural change of schools. It is
not the same as other organisations with similar aims because it works with
young people before any issues encountered, such as bullying, conflict, stress,
depression suicide or low self-esteem, begin to have negative effects on lives.
The keys to Stride’s CyberS@vvy program are:
Understanding the lack of empathy involved;
Looking at how digital footprints work, and how students and
perpetrators can be traced;
Legal penalties; and
How to refer serious issues to a trusted adult.
Berry Street is the largest independent, not-for-profit child and family
welfare organisation in Victoria, providing an extensive range of services for
young people and families across the State.
It approached cyber-safety through vulnerable young people living
out-of-home and engaged in alternative education. One of its aims is to
increase online access for those young people. As has been pointed out, those
in out-of-home care can have less access to technology than their peers. This
organisation sees technology as a valuable tool for connecting socially
isolated young people with their community, and with their families.
With funding from Telstra Corporation, the Victorian Office of the Child
Safety Commissioner and the State’s Department of Human Services, Berry Street
developed BeNetWise in 2009. Its key aims related to raising awareness
about technology, the value of technology for this group and the importance of
online safety for such vulnerable young people.
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation included cyber-bullying within its eSmart
Schools Framework which provided a ‘consistent and practical’ whole-school
approach for the implementation of evidence-based cyber-safety programs and
practices. Because it needed to be addressed head-on, eSmart was not
another program for cyber-safety, but a system for driving its implementation
in schools. It was a road map or model for cultural and behaviour change
targeting the whole school community, not a one-off lesson, unit of work,
program or policy isolated from the day-to-day business of schools.
The National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect has
a range of programs and campaigns that educate children and young people in
their online environments. They can be used, or adapted for use, in other
jurisdictions, and include:
SOSO, a digital collaboration with the digital marketing
group Zuni; and
Cyber Bullying Affects Real Lives, of which Web Warriors is
a key element that asks young people to take a stand against cyber-bullying.
The Inspire Foundation was established in 1996 as a direct response to
Australia’s then escalating rates of youth suicide, seeking to have a ‘global
impact’ on the mental health and well-being of young people. It serves those
aged between 14 and 25 through three national programs.
They are at the centre of all the Foundation does: as partners in the
development and delivery of all its initiatives. It uses technology
innovatively to reach young people and to build trusted social brands that are
a part of their landscape. Its work is evidence-based and underpinned by
research and evaluation conducted in partnership with academic institutions and
To deal with threats to cyber-safety, and cyber-bullying in particular, it
recommended a multi-faceted, cross sectoral and educative approach. This view
was based on evidence and experience that restrictive approaches to technology are
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation believes that eSmart is not
just another cyber-safety program, but a system for driving its implementation
in schools as part of a planned and systematic approach. It provides a
consistent and practical whole-school approach for the implementation of
evidence-informed cyber-safety programs and practices. It is a culture and
behaviour change model targeted at the whole school community and, as such, is
not a one-off lesson, unit of work, program or policy that sits in isolation
from the day-to-day business of schools.
More specifically, eSmart aims to:
Integrate cyber-safety with schools’ current knowledge and
practices about well-being, including policies such as the NSSF;
Assist schools to develop more effective curriculum around
cyber-safety and wellbeing and the smart use of technologies;
Help give teachers skills in smart, safe and responsible use of
Assist school communities in developing safe and supportive
schools where bullying and violence are minimised and the values of
responsibility, resourcefulness, relationships and respect are fostered in
Assist schools in becoming cyber-safe.
eSmart supports exploration of:
Supportive and relationship building behaviours, and
Whole-of-school well-being issues including
Ethics including downloading and plagiarism, and
Criminal activity, including sexual harassment and predation.
eSmart is underpinned by the positive embrace of information and
communications technology and the promotion of smart use of technology. It is
Help schools develop policies and practices (developed with input
from students and parents) encouraging students to use technology responsibly
Point schools to high quality teaching resources on cyber-safety
and those which help create a safe, respectful and caring environment;
Encourage schools to embrace the positives of Internet and communications
technology within their teaching practice to enhance learning;
Establish a system for schools to provide evidence that they are
actively implementing these policies and practices, and
Help reduce the digital divide between adults and young people,
so adults can become a credible source of advice on avoiding the risks of
The major mechanism for delivery of eSmart into schools is an
interactive website. Schools are further supported by other resources such as a
welcome kit, newsletters and a Help Desk, as well as training in using the
Roar Educate applauded the eSmart initiative, as a key to both
awareness and cultural change within schools. It did not believe however that,
in isolation, it can bring about the holistic approach needed by schools to
manage cyber-safe risk management. eSmart needs to be complemented by
Dr Julian Dooley, commented that
In 2006 we began a project to reduce cyberbullying behaviour
experienced by Aboriginal children in the mid-west of Murchison region of
Western Australia. Aboriginal community members, including elders, children,
young people, parents, carers and Aboriginal school staff, talked with us about
what they called ‘bullying’, why they think it happens and how it feels to be
Aboriginal and be bullied. This project led to the development of a number of
important outcomes, including a website www.solidkids.net.au which provides
evidence based and culturally appropriate information on strategies for young
Aboriginal people, schools and families.
Although these are very important resources, much more work is needed to
protect Aboriginal youth.
Australian ICT industry bodies
Since 2002, Australian Internet service providers compliant with Internet
Industry Association Codes have been eligible to apply for ‘IIA Family Friendly
ISP’ status. These Codes exist as part of Australia’s co-regulatory regime, and
they are legally enforceable by ACMA. Such Internet service providers are
authorised to display a logo which signifies adherence to best practice
standards. The Association noted that ISPs representing about 85 percent of the
market are family friendly.
Under the registered Code, Internet service providers providing access
to users within Australia are required to:
Take reasonable steps to ensure that Internet access accounts are
not provided to persons under the age of 18 years without the consent of a
parent, teacher or other responsible adult. A number of suggested options for
achieving this are included in the Code;
Take reasonable steps to encourage commercial content providers
to use appropriate labelling systems, and to inform them of their legal
responsibilities in regard to the content they publish. The Internet Industry Association
has compiled a resource for this purpose, and Internet service providers are
advised to direct users to the Association’s URL;
Provide an optional filter or filtered service to users on a cost
recovery basis, and
- Take reasonable steps to provide users with information about:
supervising and controlling children's access to Internet content;
procedures which parents can implement to control children's
access to Internet content;
their right to make complaints to ACMA about online content; and
procedures by which such complaints can be made.
The Association referred to the ‘very specific parameters’ around the
sites that are subject to ACMA’s take-down provisions. These fall into the
‘prohibited content’ classification under the Codes underpinned by legislation.
Such sites are required to be removed by 6pm on the business day following the
day on which they are notified. When sites are subject to take-down, they are
subject to limits of Australian jurisdiction. The ‘vast majority’ of such sites
are not hosted here.
Google Australia works closely with a network of experts who advise it
on promotion of child safety and how to combat abuse in its products. It drew
attention to the range of measures that it takes to do these things, including
the advice that it provides to its users.
Microsoft Australia believed that the following responses would assist
parents/carers to deal with cyber-bullying:
Communicate by discussing the issue with children, and encourage
them to report it to a trusted adult;
Block communications through filters, and children not to respond
to the abuse;
Investigate so that they know what children are talking about,
and what they do online;
Use Family Safety Software which can supply an activity report on
computer usage. This in turn can be a starting point for a discussion about
online activities; and
Report by knowing who to contact if a young people is being cyber-bullied,
such as her/his school, the site service provider, and the police.
Microsoft Australia also commented on its recently established Digital
Crimes Unit, which includes:
A worldwide team of lawyers, investigators, technical
analysts and other specialists whose mission is to make the Internet safer
through strong enforcement, global partnerships, public policy and technology
Yahoo!7 referred to the ‘distinct lack’ of evidence into how Australian
young people engage with the online environment, and how their parents/carers
see the risks of using the Internet.
It also believed that further research into the prevalence and scale of
online safety risks would inform and shape the debate about which safety
measures would be most effective in managing those risks.
Yahoo!7 provides training to the law enforcement community and has
created the Australian Law Enforcement Process Guide.
It has also:
a dedicated online safety education site calledYahoo!7
Safely with information for parents of younger
children and teenagers about how to be safe online;
- been an active member of the Consultative Working
Group on Cybersafety and the Safer Internet Group;
- been an active supporter of Safer Internet Day for
two consecutive years;
been working closely with the Australian Competition
and Consumer Commission on their Scamwatch and consumer fraud efforts; and
- through the Internet Industry Association,
developed a family friendly filtering accreditation which can be used by Internet
service providers and filtering software vendors, and is developing a voluntary
code whereby providers would actively filter websites containing child abuse
images out of their services.
It gave examples of its initiatives, in education, policing, safer
social networking, research and technology, to improve safety online. It noted
that Yahoo! has enabled a SafeSearch feature within Yahoo!7 to prevent the
display of adult content in queries. Parents/carers can lock this function on,
and young people registered as under 17 years old cannot turn it off.
Yahoo!7 works closely with Australian law enforcement agencies to
provide assistance when its services are abused. This included establishment of
a 24 hour/seven days per week compliance function which can respond immediately
if Yahoo!7 is contacted about a situation indicating that a young person may be
Telstra Corporation is an industry partner with the Australian
Government to link young people, parents and teachers with expert cyber-safety
advice and targeted information via ACMA’s Cybersmart website. It has agreed to
cross-promote the Authority’s website as part of its focus on helping to
protect Australians from cyber-bullying and invasions of privacy.
Other activities by Telstra include:
participation on the Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety ;
providing tools, tips and educational information to customers;
supporting Safer Internet Day, the Australasian Consumer Fraud
Taskforce’s Fraud Week, Privacy Week and National Cyber- Security Awareness
its Computer Emergency Response Team;
being an original partner of the Virtual Global Taskforce;
being a dedicated Trading Post Trust and Safety team; and
tasking a company Chief Privacy Officer and Privacy Managers to
ensure that business units adhere to its privacy policies and procedures.
Singtel Optus noted that the Australian Mobile Telecommunication
Association has developed a range of fact sheets and other material for parents
and young people on topics such as bullying and mobile phones. There is also a
website that provides information on bullying and online safety generally.
Netbox Blue is a privately owned Internet management company, providing
schools, businesses and government organisations with tools to protect their
networks from internal/external threats, control data threats and ensure
staff/students use the Internet safely and productively.
It has devoted more than three years to develop ‘patent-pending and
unique’ technology to address issues in the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference,
including cyber-bullying. It believed that this software would prevent
inappropriate communications on social networking sites such as Facebook and
Twitter. It could be used at schools, on laptops provided for use outside those
networks and soon, at homes. It noted that this technology was already being used
at schools across Australia.
Device Connections is the exclusive distributor of My Mobile Watchdog,
‘a sophisticated safety technology’ that allows parents to see:
the full content of text messages received and sent;
photos received and sent;
the full contents of emails received and sent, and
a log of the mobile phone calls received and made, their time and
This technology is aimed at children aged from six to 14, and was
established to help parents educate and manage their children’s safety. It was
driven by concerns about cyber-bullying and sexting. Parents can set up an
alert notification function within the system so that, when a suspicious or
unauthorised person tries to call, text or email a young person, the
communication is routed through the My Mobile Watchdog data centre.
Notifications or alerts by SMS message or email are sent ‘instantly’ to all the
people nominated in the parents’ web account.
My Mobile Watchdog can be used on all phones operating on Windows Mobile
5 and 6, it was recently launched for all android operating systems and the
capability is being developed for more handsets. Device Connections sees this
system as ‘only one piece’ in a very complex puzzle of managing cyber-safety
education and training for parents/carers, the community and young people
themselves. This service costs about $150 per year, providing licences for up
to five children.
It included in its submission a report from the United States about the
effectiveness of My Mobile Watchdog in helping ‘parents monitor and keep their
children safer’ while using their mobile phones.
The Communication Alliance Industry Code deals with the Handling of
Life Threatening and Unwelcome Communications, and is an example of
The Australian Direct Marketing Association is the peak industry body
for the Australian direct marketing industry and operates a Direct Marketing
Code of Practice which includes specific provisions to address marketing to
minors. The Code specifies that
members limit the sale of restricted goods and services to minors and indicate
when parental consent is required. The Australian Direct Marketing Association
has a number of platforms designed to provide guidance to its members about
appropriate conduct when interacting with young people.
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