There are many ways that a parent can help their child explore the digital world. Being aware of some of the dangers of technology and social media can help avoiding harmful experiences.
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A lawyer can listen to your story and help identify the next steps you can take.
Where can I learn more about keeping my family safe online?
Legal Aid has an online learning module for people to learn more about being safe online and using social media. It takes about 45-60 minutes to work through, and includes videos, activities and questions. It is designed for young people to work through and it a good resource for parents and the wider family to understand the issues facing young people and technology. You can access the module here Being Cyber Safe
How does the law impact my child’s use of technology?
A child aged 14 years is considered old enough to understand their actions and can be charged with committing an offence. Between the ages of 10 and 14 the Police need to prove that a child suspected of committing an offence knew what they were doing. Laws relating to the sending, receiving and storing of naked or sexually explicit images is strictly illegal for any person under the age of 18.
A cyber crime is a criminal offence that is committed using technology. A child can commit a cyber crime without intending to break the law. Examples of this are:
- Stalking - making unwanted phone calls, SMSs, emails or other messages on social media that intimidates or frightens someone
- Defamation - saying something untrue about someone or a company that damages their reputation, which could also have a financial impact on them (eg. they loose some work as a result of what said that was untrue)
- Sexual harassment - any form of unwelcome sexual behaviour that’s offensive, unwelcome, humiliating or intimidating. This can include making sexual comments on social media.
- Sexting - sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit messages or images via mobile phone, other device or social media.
What do I need to know about sexting?
Sexting is a text or image-based message that is sexually explicit. Statistics show that more than 50% of Australian teenagers have sent or received a sext. More than being illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to sext, sexting can lead to other offences such as sexual harassment.
Sending a sext may be considered sexual harassment by the person receiving it. Sexting can also lead to blackmail and sextortion. There are serious consequences for anyone who commits these offences. In addition to breaking the law, future employers may not want to employ someone with a criminal record. Sexting can have serious effects on friendships and your child’s social wellbeing.
Even if someone is over 18 years of age it is an offence to send a sext to someone who does not consent to receiving it, or to send a sext about someone if that person does not give permission to send it.
What do I need to know about bullying?
Bullying is a misuse of power in a relationship that involves ongoing and repeated behaviour that can cause harm. Some young people may be particularly susceptible to peer pressures which can lead to bullying behaviours. Cyber-bullying is a real issue because technology makes it so easy to bully someone without seeing the harm done.
Making fun of someone online can be a form of cyber-bullying, even though it seems harmless or is intended to be funny. A young person may not consider that bullying behaviour in a group chat is very serious. However there can be serious legal consequences for those who participate in this kind of online behaviour, and harm done to those who are also involved.
What if I find a sext on my child’s device?
A sext should immediately be deleted from a child’s device or social media account. Talk to your child about the legal consequences and possible harm from sexting. If your child has received a sext the child should respond to the sender explaining that they do not want to receive a sext and you can refer your child to seek some additional support in case it continues or they feel worried about it. See below for some useful places to get additional support for your child.
What are some useful messages to give my child about technology?
Using technology can be fun and can help a young person engage more with the world around them. Technology can help a young person connect with other people around interests and, when used safely, create and nurture friendships. Because there is a danger that someone you “meet” online is not who they say they are, discuss with your child how they can look after themselves by not revealing personal information such as their phone number, home address, or what school they attend. Help your child understand privacy setting for the apps they use, and create some rules with your child about how they use their device.
Where can I go if I or my child needs some help?
Kids Helpline - this service is for young people up to 25 years of age. Call 1800 55 1800 to speak with a counsellor at any time of the day.
Headspace is a youth-focused mental health service for young people aged 12-25. Phone counselling available all day, every day on 1800 650 890. Online chat available 9am to 1am EST daily.
The eSafety Commissioner provides a wide range of online safety programs and resources, including resources for parents helping their children safely navigate the digital world.