Australian children are immersing themselves in the online world through social media sites, online games, smartphones and tablets. However, it is an unfortunate consequence that this leaves them vulnerable to harmful content and malicious and illegal online activities.
The Australian Government recognises online safety is an important area of responsibility, especially for parents and teachers, and support is required so they are better equipped to protect children online.
The Government has committed to a range of measures to help protect Australian children online. These include:
- Establishing a Children's e-Safety Commissioner to take a national leadership role in online safety for children.
- Implementing a legislative based complaints system for the fast removal of material from large social media sites that is harmful or distressing to a child.
- Investigating options for a simplified cyberbullying offence.
- In consultation with industry, improving safety options on smartphones, other devices and internet access services. This includes making available software which parents can choose to install to help protect children from inappropriate content.
- Establishing an advice platform with guidelines for parents about appropriateness of individual media items for children.
- Improved support for schools through a stronger online safety component within the National Safe Schools Framework, establishing a voluntary process for the certification of online safety programs to be offered in schools, and funding for schools for the provision of online safety programs.
- Providing funding to support Australian based research and information campaigns on online safety.
On 22 January 2014, the Department of Communications released a public discussion paper seeking comment on several of the above measures. Submissions in response to the discussion paper were due by 7 March 2014 and the Government is considering feedback received. Further details about the consultation process are available on the Public consultation on Enhancing Online Safety for Children page.
The Australian Government has committed $10.0 million in the 2014-15 Budget to enhance online safety for children. Funding will be provided over four years for the following measures outlined in the Government's Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children:
- $7.5 million to assist schools to access accredited online safety programmes;
- $2.4 million to establish and operate the Office of the Children's e‐Safety Commissioner to take a leadership role in online safety; and
- $0.1 million to support Australian‐based research and information campaigns on online safety.
The Government's other online safety measures include:
- The Australian Federal Police (AFP) Child Protection Operations Team which investigates online child sex exploitation.
- The Australian Communications and Media Authority's (the ACMA) Cybersmart programme which comprises a comprehensive range of cybersafety education activities.
- The Cybersafety Help Button which provides internet users, particularly children and young people, with easy online access to counselling, reporting and information resources to assist in dealing with cyber safety issues.
- The Easy Guide to Socialising Online which provides cyber safety information about a range of different social networking sites, search engines and online games. It also includes general tips on how to stay safe when using any social media site.
- The ThinkUKnow website sponsored in part by the Australian Federal Police, is another valuable resource that offers help and advice, including information relating to the posting of offensive and explicit material online and via mobile phones.
- Using the INTERPOL list to block child abuse content online.
- The Online Safety Consultative Working Group which considers the broad range of cyber safety issues and advises government to ensure properly-developed and targeted policy measures.
- The Youth Advisory Group on Cyber Safety (YAG) which provides advice to the government on cyber safety issues from a young person's perspective.
- The Teachers and Parents Advisory Group on Cyber Safety (TAP) which provides an opportunity for teachers and parents across Australia to come together via a secure online forum to discuss cyber safety issues affecting children in the digital world. Membership to the TAP is open to all Australian teachers and parents.
- Ongoing cybersafety research into the changing digital environment to identify issues and target future policy and funding.
- The Cooperative Arrangements for Complaints Handling on Social Networking Sites (the Protocol) which was developed through close cooperation with industry and has been agreed to by Facebook, Google (YouTube), Yahoo!7 and Microsoft. The Protocol assists in improving the information that social networking sites make available to their users about their handling of complaints for material posted online, and to highlight and educate users on mechanisms to deal with problems which arise on their sites.
- The Cooperative Arrangement for Complaints Handling on Social Networking Sites (PDF, 462.6 KB)
- The Cooperative Arrangement for Complaints Handling on Social Networking Sites (DOC, 94.5 KB)
Self-declarations provided by Social Networking Sites under the Cooperative Arrangement for Complaints Handling
- A calendar containing information on key cyber safety and security dates and events. The calendar was developed in conjunction with the Consultative Working Group on Cyber Safety and sets out cyber safety and security events spanning a 12 month period. The calendar is a tool to assist organisations in considering the most appropriate timing for any events they are planning, and raising awareness and the promotion of upcoming events.
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