Protecting yourself from abuse online

Online grooming

There are certain stereotypes attached to online child sex offenders, such as an older male.  However, online child sex offenders can be anyone.

What is it?

Online grooming is when an adult makes online contact with someone under the age of 16 with the intention of engaging in sexual activity.

The offence is committed by communication so no physical contact needs to occur for police to be involved.

Online sex offenders may pretend to be someone your age, but are often upfront with the fact that they are an adult. They might try and manipulate you to make you feel as though your relationship with them is special and convince you that the sexual relationship is normal behaviour.

The offender might start to build a gradual friendship and then introduce sexual concepts through sharing inappropriate content or they might quickly raise requests for sex.

Research has identified the following young people who are at high risk of being groomed online:

  • Those with a history of abuse
  • Those exploring their sexuality
  • Those who undertake risky sexual behaviour online

Many offenders are very good at manipulating young people and may be inappropriately communicating with many young people at the same time.

And it doesn’t just occur on social media.

The rise of apps with direct message or ‘chat’ functions mean that anyone, anywhere can start up a conversation. 

Many apps don’t require identification to sign in so people can use fake names or ages to start an account - you never really know who you are talking to.

Some apps are even designed to find people close by. Check out our resources page for factsheets on the most popular apps and our protecting your accounts page for privacy information.

What can I do?

Keep your eye out for these signs from your child:

  • Change in the use of sexual knowledge or language – as part of the grooming process, an offender may start by introducing sexual concepts into the conversation
  • Aggressive or secretive behaviour when questioned about their online activities – this may seem typical of young people but when it is outside their normal behavioural pattern, it may be an indication that they are engaging in behaviour online they don’t want to be known about, and possibly even being manipulated by an offender online.
  • Unexplained gifts of cash- these could be both tangible and virtual gifts sometimes given as a gesture of friendship or as payment for some behaviour on the child’s part.

If you suspect your child is being groomed…

Trust your instincts. If you are concerned about the possibility your child, or know of a child, who is at risk from sexual abuse, report it.

It is never too late to report suspicions of online grooming, and the sooner it is identified, the less harm may occur. Find out more about how to report.

Consider seeking further support from counselling services.

Be aware of how to block and report on the games, apps and site your child is using so that you can take quick action if someone makes them uncomfortable online.

Here’s some tips:

  • We encourage children to avoid talking online to people they don’t know offline
  • If you are communicating with a stranger, avoid mentioning any personal information
  • Never send photos to someone you don’t know or trust online
  • Ensure that contacts are people your child has met in real life, trust and are safe to communicate with on a regular basis
  • Nothing in life is free – warn your child about accepting gifts from people they don’t know
  • Know how to block and report on the games, apps and sites
  • Report any suspicious behaviour

Online child exploitation

Research indicates that more and more child exploitation material is being shared via social media, and is being produced by children themselves.

Young people might think it’s OK to share images of themselves– but they don’t realise that this image could end up anywhere.

What is it?

Child exploitation material can be any material that shows someone under the age of 18 in sexual activity or posed in a sexualised way. 

The online child exploitation process includes accessing, sending or uploading this material online. Online grooming can also be involved in this process.

Sometimes young people might search for pornography of people their own age. This material is illegal. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still be charged with producing, possessing or distributing it.

Why should I be aware?

Young people need to be aware of what messages they are sending about themselves that may appeal to online child sex offenders.

You don’t know who is going to see your image and where it will end up.

As we’ve already outlined, sharing nude or provocative images of people under 18 is a criminal offence. 

What can I do?

It is important to educate young people on how to recognise inappropriate or suspicious behaviour online, such as requests for sexualised material.

Viewing child exploitation material is not only illegal; it can have harmful psychological and emotional consequences.

Research shows that sexualised images and exposure to pornography shape young people’s notions of gender, sexual expectations and practices. 

For this reason, we strongly encourage you to talk to young people about respectful relationships and direct them to ethical sources of information about sex and relationships. Visit our support page for more information.

Read more about inappropriate content on our safe searching page.

Top tips!

  • Avoid inappropriate interactions or sexual requests online by blocking or reporting users
  • Discuss ethical sexual relationships and appropriate online interactions with your child
  • Reiterate that pornography does not replicate or promote healthy sexual relationships
  • Be open to your child coming to you for help if someone online makes them feel uncomfortable
  • Know what content your children might be accessing online
  • You might consider filtering or other parental controls for your devices
  • If you come across content that is inappropriate or illegal report it

If you have seen something online that makes you or your child uncomfortable  – think about contacting support or counselling services

Cyberbullying

No one is immune to cyberbullying, including celebrities, athletes, politicians, and maybe even you.

What is it?

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to undertake deliberate, repeated behaviour with the intent to cause harm.

This can be done by an individual or group you may or may not know. Cyberbullying may involve ‘trolling’, abusive language, intimidation, threats and humiliation.  

It is challenging to prevent as most people have 24/7 direct access to mobile phones and the internet. It can occur outside of school and after hours.

Why should I be aware?

The emotional and psychological impact of cyber bullying can be devastating for victims.

Cyberbullying hurts people. There could even be legal consequences for harassing or threatening someone online.

If your child is being bullied

In the first instance cyberbullying should be reported to the website, app or social media platform on which the cyberbullying has occurred.

Collect evidence of cyberbullying and include it when submitting a report. Examples of evidence you could collect include screenshots, videos, chat logs and web addresses.

Keep a record of this report and the date and time that it was submitted.

You can also make a complaint to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner. They can help you to work with social networking sites to remove serious cyber bullying content. Visit Office of children's eSafety Commissioner for more information.

Here’s a little plan we suggest you follow:

  1. Collect evidence – take screenshots, copy the URL
  2. Report the cyberbullying material to the social media service
  3. If the content is not removed within 48 hours, report it to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner: Esafety.gov.au/reportcyberbullying

There are also ways you can build your children’s understanding of the issue and help them understand who and when to get help. We recommend you suggest how the below tips may help your family.

ThinkUKnow top tips:

  • Make sure your child knows how to block on every site or service they use
  • Help them to build resilience against one-off incidents
  • Make sure your children know that they can talk to someone, even if it’s not you. Asking for help is a good thing!
  • Remind them there is always someone to talk to, even if they don’t feel like talking to you. Kids Helpline is a great resource! Your kids don’t even have to call, they can chat to them online.
  • If you believe a child is in immediate danger or risk, call 000 or your local police.

What can I do?

If you have seen online content that upsets you, or had an uncomfortable experience with someone online, you might need to talk to someone about it. Visit our support page for where to get help.

Develop skills and strategies for avoiding cyberbullying and for creating a culture which does not tolerate bullying in any form. 

Don’t start it – Cyber bullying is never acceptable. Think before you post someone mean, or send someone a hurtful message.

Don’t be a part of it! As a bystander, you can do something to stop cyberbullying. If someone tries to get you involved in cyberbullying, say NO.

Don’t let it get out of control! You need to tell someone if you are being cyberbullied so that they can help you to make it stop.

Stand up! Be an active bystander and tell a trusted adult if you see cyberbullying occurring.

Sexting or sending nudes

Once you hit ‘send’, you never know where your personal images might end up.

What is it?

‘Sexting’ or ‘sending nudes’ is the creating, sharing, sending or posting of sexually explicit messages or images via the internet, mobile phones or other electronic devices.

Other terms used to describe sexting include, naked selfies, nudes (N00dz) or ‘nakeys’.

Young people may engage in this behaviour for various reasons including intimacy with their partner, in the hope to gain a partner, the belief that it is the ‘norm’ in young relationships gained from seeing other young people to do it, the media, or through exposure to pornography.

Ghost, decoy or vault apps can be used to hide images on smartphones. Popular choices include the Secret Calculator, Hide It Pro and NQ Vault.

There is also a trend toward apps for sharing ‘erasable’ media, where young people send images believing that they ‘disappear’ after a short time (Snapchat is a popular example of this). However, entire deletion cannot be guaranteed.

The Australian Institute of Criminology conducted a study into young people and sexting.

Out of a sample of 2,000 respondents between the ages of 13 to 18, this study found that:

  • Almost half (49%)reported having sent a sexual picture or video of themselves to another party
  • Two thirds (67%) reported having received a sexual image
  • Sexting was prevalent among all age groups, however 13-15 year olds were particularly likely to receive sexual images
  • There was little evidence of peer pressure or coercion to engage in sexting
  • Most sexting occurred between partners in committed relationships
  • The young people reported the practice of sexting as a consensual and enjoyable part of their intimate relationships

Why should I be aware?

Once you’ve taken and shared an image, you lose control of who sees it and where it ends up. Not everyone will respect your privacy and keep your photos private.

Sometimes relationships can end badly, and if provocative content has been shared, there is the chance that this may be used for blackmail, payback or revenge. You might become a victim of ‘revenge porn’ or sextortion.

If you share someone else’s content, you are breaking their trust, and this tells them that you have not respected them. If the person is under 18 you might also be committing a crime.

Not only can the sharing of this content impact on relationships, it can also impact on reputation, future career prospects and may involve potential criminal charges (depending on the content – see Online Child Exploitation for more information).

Young people need to be aware of what messages they are sending about themselves that may appeal to online child sex offenders, potentially leaving them at risk of online grooming or unwanted contact.

If you’ve shared something you regret, or know of a friend who needs help, here’s what to do…

Don’t panic – everyone makes mistakes!

Nothing is so bad you can’t tell someone - speak to a trusted adult, counsellor or community health services

Hopefully in most cases there are no serious consequences for your future, but you should be aware that there is no guarantee that others (such as future employers, academic institutions and new friends) won’t see your images in the future

Here’s ThinkUKnow top tips for young people:

  • Search for yourself online to find out what your ‘digital shadow’ looks like.
  •  If an image of yourself appears on a website or app, and you have not consented to the use of this image, you contact the administrator to seek its removal.
  • Contact the person who has shared the photo or video and ask them to remove it and delete all copies.
  • Keep evidence by taking screenshots and noting the web addresses of the content. You can also use another device to take photos of the content.
  • Google can stop specific pages containing inappropriate images appearing in image search results. This will only help with Google searches. The videos and photos will still be searchable using other search engines such as Yahoo.
  • Make sure webcams are covered when not in use.
  • If you need support, talk to someone you trust or, seek help. Kids Helpline is a great resource.
  • Remember, under Commonwealth law, a sexually explicit image of someone under the age of 18 may constitute child pornography. Young people need to be aware that they may be committing a crime when taking, receiving or forwarding sexual images of themselves or friends who are minors. This applies even if all Offensive and illegal content can also be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, who can investigate and take action on content that is likely to be prohibited under law. Offensive and illegal content can also be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, who can investigate and take action on content that is likely to be prohibited under law. participants are willing.
  • Offensive and illegal content can also be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, who can investigate and take action on content that is likely to be prohibited under law.

If you find your child has been creating, sending or receiving ‘sexts’…

The first step is, don’t panic!

  • Talk to your child and try to find out as much about the matter as you can
  • Use your judgement and discretion to manage the issue. Research suggests that sexting is a part of children building relationships.
  • Consider whether their behaviour is just a normal part of growing up and they are respectful or others, or whether you think you need to talk to your child further about the behaviour if it is inappropriate
  • Consider seeking advice from support services or your child’s school
  • If you believe the incident is malicious or may be a result of grooming, contact your local police

What to expect if the police become involved…

Each state and territory police may deal with sexting cases differently.

However, under Commonwealth law, an image of someone under the age of 18 in which they are naked, in a sexualised pose or engaged in a sexual act may be child exploitation material.

The taking, sending and receiving of these images may be offences carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment, even if it is an image of them. 

These laws were designed to deal with adults who offend against children, but some instances of ‘sexting’ may also meet the requirements of these offences. 

Police investigations will generally focus on the incidents of sexting where the image has been spread to external parties for malicious or exploitative reasons.

Protecting yourself from abuse online – image based sexual abuse

Sometimes images, even your own can be used against you.

‘Sextortion’

Have you been asked for something in exchange for someone to not share your private images?

You may be a victim of ‘sextortion’.

‘Sextortion’ occurs when someone threatens to share your private images if victims don’t provide images of a sexual nature, sexual favours or money.

You may be targeted by extortionists through social networking sites, dating webcam or adult sites. It might be someone known to you – or it could be stranger.

It’s an evolving crime type, so it is difficult to say how common it is in Australia.

However, it has been reported by international law enforcement agencies that there has been a significant increase in sextortion activity against children, typically aged 10 to 17.

‘Revenge porn’

Revenge porn is when someone distributes your privately shared explicit content without your consent.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is aware of instances where images uploaded on social networking sites have been shared on other networks.

The global nature of the internet means that the majority of revenge porn websites are hosted outside of Australia and therefore this makes it difficult for police to investigate.

The AFP assesses referrals on a case-by-case basis, with the majority of these matters falling under the state and territory laws, which differ in every jurisdiction.

Remember that once an image has been shared it’s out of your control and can be misappropriated, even when using seemingly private services such as Snapchat. And if someone trusts you with a private image of them, don’t share it with anyone else.

Are you being threatened?

  • If someone is threatening you - talk to a trusted adult, even if you’re embarrassed or think you’ll get into trouble.
  • Paying scammers or extortionists is not a good idea - once you have paid or complied with their demands, nothing stops them from targeting you again.
  • Block their emails and their accounts so they can’t contact you.
  • The police might get involved – if they do they’ll need as much information as possible to track the person down.
  • Save any emails or conversations you might have had with the person.
  • Think about speaking to support services, such as Kids Helpline.
  • If you find photos of yourself online, you can contact the host site to ask them to remove the files. Consider seeking advice from a health professional or support services

What if your image is online?

ThinkUKnow what happens to your image when you press send? It can be very hard to get photos and videos removed if posted online.

We want young people to be aware that once they send or post something online, they have lost all control over where that image or message will end up.

Here’s ThinkUKnow top tips for young people:

  • Search for yourself online to find out what your ‘digital shadow’ looks like.
  •  If an image of yourself appears on a website or app, and you have not consented to the use of this image, you contact the administrator to seek its removal.
  • Contact the person who has shared the photo or video and ask them to remove it and delete all copies.
  • Keep evidence by taking screenshots and noting the web addresses of the content. You can also use another device to take photos of the content.
  • Google can stop specific pages containing inappropriate images appearing in image search results. This will only help with Google searches. The videos and photos will still be searchable using other search engines such as Yahoo.
  • Make sure webcams are covered when not in use.
  • If you need support, talk to someone you trust or, seek help. Kids Helpline is a great resource.
  • Remember, under Commonwealth law, a sexually explicit image of someone under the age of 18 may constitute child pornography. Young people need to be aware that they may be committing a crime when taking, receiving or forwarding sexual images of themselves or friends who are minors. This applies even if all Offensive and illegal content can also be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, who can investigate and take action on content that is likely to be prohibited under law. Offensive and illegal content can also be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, who can investigate and take action on content that is likely to be prohibited under law. participants are willing.
  • Offensive and illegal content can also be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, who can investigate and take action on content that is likely to be prohibited under law.