New toolkit to protect students from online abuse

New toolkit to protect students from online abuse

According to the latest data on the privacy of young people in Australia, 60% of parents say their child is exposed to risks from being online.

Last week, the office of the eSafety Commissioner released a set of resources to help schools keep their students safe online.

The toolkit, which was officially launched during the SMH Schools Summit, includes over 25 individual resources to aid school leaders in preventing and responding effectively to incidents.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said that as technology increasingly becomes part of school operations, there will be more challenges to student wellbeing and safety – and even greater workloads for school leaders and staff.

The resources, which seek to support a consistent approach online safety issues, also include content on how to engage and educate staff, parents and students on online safety.

The release of the toolkit is a response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Bullying and Cyberbullying Senior Officials Working Group. 

A growing issue

A new survey, titled ‘Image-Based Sexual Abuse: An International Study of Victims and Perpetrators’, revealed that one in three Australians have been a victim of image-based abuse. Last year, eSafety came out with a guide to help principals tackle cases of image-based abuse in their schools.

The instances have increased compared to the first survey conducted in 2016, when one in five respondents said they had been victims.

The survey, which covered 2,054 Australians between the ages 16-64, found that those aged 20-29 were most likely to be victims and that women go through more harm from the criminal act. These images are also mostly distributed through email, mobile messages or social media.

Likewise, perpetration of abuse had also become more prevalent – from one in 10 back in 2016 to now one in six respondents admitted to have taken or shared, or even made threats to share intimate pictures of an individual without their consent.

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Associate Professor and lead author Anastasia Powel said they found that image-based sexual abuse had an increase in cases due to the perpetrators, not victim behaviour.

While formerly only linked to former partners, the new study found that individuals committing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or simply bullying are now resorting to image-based sexual abuse for a number of reasons such as impressing friends, or embarrassing the victim.

Associate Professor Asher Flynn, co-author of the report, said that aside from better enforcement of the law, there needs to be a change in community attitudes as well as further inclusion of image-based sexual abuse topics in respectful relationships education.