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8 ways to stay safe online in sport

8 ways to stay safe online in sport
8 ways to stay safe online in sport

People are online every day as part of sporting life. We use team apps, share images in chats and scroll through social media feeds to help us connect with others, but being online comes with risks.

Whether you’re a volunteer, coach, official, competitor or fan, everyone can follow these tips for staying safe online.

On this page:

Tip 1: Know the risks and impacts

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Online abuse is behaviour that uses digital technology to threaten, intimidate, menace, bully, harass, humiliate or offend someone. It can happen on all online platforms and communication services, such as social media sites, messaging services, chat forums, gaming platforms and apps. It can come from someone you know, or an anonymous source.

Experiencing online abuse can have immediate and ongoing impacts on those involved in sport. It can affect the mental health, physical wellbeing, confidence, relationships and sense of safety of the person targeted and anyone who witnesses it. It can also stop people joining or staying with the sport.

It’s important that people who have been abused know that it’s not their fault and there’s help available. Access to good advice, as well as counselling and support services, can be lifesaving, especially for anyone feeling overwhelmed or at risk of self-harm.

You can find useful information in our page on How to deal with online abuse in sport for advice on managing the impacts of different types of online abuse.

Online harm also has a damaging impact on sport as a whole. We all know that poor conduct at in-person sport events, such as abuse of match officials or poor sideline conduct, wrecks the experience for everyone involved. Unsafe online environments are the same – they’re a risk to everyone’s enjoyment and wellbeing, as well as the integrity and reputation of the sport.

Find out how to recognise online abuse in sport.

You can also read real online safety examples that could happen in your sport, including what to do if something goes wrong.

Tip 2: Set up for safety

You can take the lead in managing your online safety by regularly reviewing security, privacy and safety settings on your devices and accounts. All apps and platforms are different, so it’s important to review each for:

  • conditions of use
  • privacy and security settings
  • how to report violations and abuse.

Check the The eSafety Guide for information about different social media platforms, messaging services, websites, games and apps.

You can also follow our general advice on how to set up safe online practices for sport, covering communications and use of cameras and recording devices.

You may find these resources helpful too:

Tip 3: Know your sport rules and policies

Your sport organisation is likely to have policies that relate to online safety. They usually outline the standards of behaviour, and what type of conduct is appropriate or not. So it’s a good idea to get familiar with the sport policies that can help guide how you deal with different incidents.

Each sport will be different, but online safety may be covered under policies such as:

  • codes of conduct
  • integrity
  • member protection 
  • child safeguarding  
  • social media
  • privacy
  • complaints handling.

Your sport organisation should help you deal with online abuse if it relates to your sport, no matter who it comes from. 

You can also report matters to Sport Integrity Australia if the issue involves children or discrimination, and your sport has adopted the National Integrity Framework.

Tip 4: Keep boundaries when communicating with children and young people

Safe online communication with children and young people in sport is essential. This includes all interactions by adult coaches, officials, managers, administrators and other members. It’s an important step for preventing online abuse, particularly grooming of children by sexual predators.

Your sport policies and procedures should set out expectations and rules. Refer to them along with this general advice:

  • Adopt a two-deep model – make sure to include the organisation and a parent or carer in all electronic or online communication.
  • Maintain boundaries on social media – don’t befriend children and young people online.
  • Keep your personal details private – if possible, avoid communicating with young members, parents or carers via your personal email address, phone number or social media accounts.
  • Manage images and videos appropriately – avoid exchanging personal photos or videos with members and don’t store images of them, or information about them, on your personal devices.

Read some real scenarios about online communication with children and young people, including what to do if something goes wrong.

Visit Sport Integrity Australia’s Resource page and download the Communicating Online or Electronically with Children and Young People Guide for best practice guidance. 

Tip 5: Be mindful when taking and sharing photos and videos

Sport is a great place to take photos and videos. Whether it’s action shots at a carnival or videos for training purposes, it’s important to be mindful of privacy and safety. This will help prevent people being exposed to online abuse.

You can start by referring to your sport policies for guidance on the use of cameras and recording devices, including:

  • consent to take, store and share images of members
  • permission to take images at events, grounds and facilities
  • steps to minimise people being identified, such as preventing naming or tagging without their consent
  • specific requirements with regards to children and young people.

Read real examples about taking and sharing photos and videos at sport, including what to do if something goes wrong.

Images of children and young people

Visit the Sport Integrity Australia’s Resources page to find the Photography and Filming of Children and Young People in Sport Guide for practical advice.

You can also read more advice from eSafety:

Tip 6: Manage your digital reputation

What you say and do online as part of sport matters. Always assume anything you send, post or share can be seen publicly. 

Be mindful you are representatives of your sport and there may be some policies your organisation has set up that you need to follow. It might mean making sure your public interactions such as likes, comments and posts online align with the values of your sport, or avoiding making comments on behalf of your sport organisation without its consent. This will help protect you from online abuse, and the sport from criticism.

Think about the type of content you want to share and avoid.

Content to share can include:

  • great sporting moments 
  • celebrating and congratulating success
  • tips to improve practice and performance
  • inspiring others
  • reposting and liking positive posts from sporting people’s feeds.

Content to avoid might be:

  • anything in the heat of the moment
  • liking or supporting negative online commentary
  • personally identifying information or private details about you or others
  • negative, inflammatory or offensive statements
  • information about starting line ups and injuries, as it could be used in betting markets that you may not even be aware are available for your sport.

Read real scenarios about using personal social media accounts, including what to do if something goes wrong.

There’s also more information for adults on our page about digital reputation or more tailored advice for young people.

Tip 7: Know how to report serious online abuse

Experiencing online abuse can have a serious impact on the person targeted. It can affect their mental and physical health and sense of safety, especially if the abuse is ongoing or if harmful content is shared widely. This is why eSafety helps deal with serious forms of harm such as cyberbullying of a child under 18, adult cyber abuse (18 or older) and image-based abuse (sometimes known as ‘revenge porn’ or ‘sextortion’).

Online abuse is not OK and there are steps you can take to deal with it.

Remember, you don’t have to deal with online abuse on your own. It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, like a teammate, friend or family member. They can also help you report the abuse.

If you, or someone in your sport, experience online abuse:

Contact your sport organisation for help – they may have policies around online safety in place.

Follow the steps to report serious online abuse:

Find more detailed advice on how to deal with online abuse in sport if this happens to you or a targeted member in your sport.

Tip 8: Champion fair play online

When we’re playing sport, we need to be safe, play fair, and respect everyone around us – and when we’re online we need to remember to play by the same rules. We can all play a role in positive online conduct in sport by following someone simple online behaviours. 

  • Be respectful. There’s no place for abuse, hate or discrimination online. 
  • Be kind. Treat people with kindness, patience and understanding online. 
  • Ask for help. Everyone needs support. Reach out if something goes wrong online.
  • Be resilient. Try not let a bad experience online put you off your game – remember that no one deserves to be abused. 
  • Be safe. Take steps like reviewing privacy and safety settings to help keep you safer online (even if that means not having as many followers and getting as many likes).
  • Be responsible. Think how your actions could affect other people. It’s best not to hit back with your own hurtful comments, or to ‘feed the trolls’ – it usually makes the situation worse and could get you into trouble. 
  • Be an upstander. Support others you see targeted by poor behaviour such as bullying, hate and other forms of abuse. How?
    • Reach out to the person being targeted to show your support. Make sure they’re OK. 
    • Report the behaviour to your sport organisation. You can also report seriously harmful content to online platforms or services. Remember anyone can report bad behaviour – you can use The eSafety Guide for more help on how to report across different social media sites, messaging services, apps, websites, games or apps.
    • Speak up or show you disagree with disrespectful behaviour online, if you feel confident and safe doing that. 

You can find more advice about how to be an upstander in our tailored pages for Kids, Young People and LGBTIQ+ communities, as well as our advice pages for friends and family in the Cyberbullying, Adult cyber abuse and Image-based abuse sections.

Real online safety examples and scenarios

Click on the + symbol to find out what to do and how to deal with each situation.

You should refer to your sport policies and discuss the matter with your club. Most sports will not allow filming in changerooms.

  • Contact your club and ask the photos to be removed. Sports clubs should seek permission from members to take and share their image. Many do this when you register for the season. 
  • Check your sport policies, which should also outline what is and is not allowed. 

  • Contact your club and discuss the matter. Sport policies should also outline what is and is not allowed with regards to photography. Rules may vary according to a number of factors including where the photos are taken.
  • Ask the other parents not to take photos and share images of your child online. 

As the comment is written by a member of the club, follow sport policies and involve the appropriate staff and volunteers.

Depending on the policies, it’s important the committee thinks about:

  • discussing the matter with the member responsible
  • removing the content
  • imposing sanctions under sport policies, if appropriate.

Make sure to record the incident according to your sport policies. Your club committee could also take the opportunity to communicate and reinforce positive online values with all members. 

Make sure any communication between adult and child members of a sport club always includes their parent or carer in the conversation. In this situation:

  • don’t respond to the young person
  • contact their parent or carer and let them know what’s happened, passing on any relevant information the child requested and asking the parent to make sure they are included in all communication in future
  • discuss the matter with your club and refer to your sport policies.

  • Ask them to stop and delete what they’ve posted. Let your teammate know you don’t think it’s OK and they may need to apologise.
  • Discuss the matter with your sport organisation. Let them know what has happened. They may take action under sport policies.

If the person who posted it doesn’t delete it, let your sport organisation know what’s happened. They may be able to resolve the issue by talking with the player (and officials at the other team, if necessary). 

  • Contact your sport organisation for help. They may be able to take action depending on your organisation’s sport policies, or help you report it to eSafety.
  • Collect evidence. Take screenshots and record what has happened, including the account name and the social media platform where it happened. This is important proof if you decide to report it to the online platform or service or to eSafety. Read more about how to collect evidence, including how to screenshot on a on Mac, Windows PC, iPad or iPhone, or Android device.
  • Report the harmful content to the online service or platform first – The eSafety Guide has links to report on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp and many other common ones. If the online platform doesn’t help, and the abuse is very serious, you can report to eSafety.
  • Stop contact and tighten security. Use in-app functions to mute, ignore or hide the account. After they have collected evidence and reported the abuse, they can also delete the content and block the other account. It’s a good idea to review your security and privacy settings too.
  • Get more help. You don’t need to deal with this on your own. See our advice on how to manage the impacts of cyberbullying or adult cyber abuse. Make sure to also talk to someone you trust or contact a counselling and support service for more support. 

More information

eSafety has a range of resources for you and your sport organisation to learn more about online safety.

Check out our Key Topics section for more online safety advice, including dealing with fake news and misinformation, and setting up multi-factor authentication to protect your personally identifiable information from identity theft, unwanted or unsafe contact, and how to manage your digital safety settings.

You can also get help and support from one of these counselling services

Kids Helpline

5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Lifeline

All ages. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available all day, every day.

More services

Last updated: 20/03/2024