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
- Tip 2: Set up for safety
- Tip 3: Know your sports rules and policies
- Tip 4: Keep boundaries when communicating with children and young people
- Tip 5: Be mindful when taking and sharing photos and videos
- Tip 6: Manage your digital reputation
- Tip 7: Know how to report serious online abuse
- Tip 8: Champion fair play online
- Real online safety examples and scenarios
- More information
Tip 1: Know the risks and impacts
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:
- How to have safer online experiences
- Protect your personally identifiable information from identity theft
- Managing your digital safety settings
- Get help with technology – if you’re new to digital technology, start with the advice on this page.
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
- member protection
- child safeguarding
- social media
- 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.
Sport Integrity Australia’s Child Safe Practices Dos and Don’ts Guide also provides 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
Use Sport Integrity Australia’s Child Safe Practices Dos and Don’ts Guide for practical advice on taking images of children and young people.
You can also read more advice from eSafety:
- Tips for parents: Privacy and sharing photos of your kids
- Tips for young people: Consent for sharing photos and videos
- Tips for children: Sharing photos and personal information online
- The eSafety Guide: Information about popular apps and platforms that have photo, video and content sharing features.
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.
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:
- Collect evidence – take screenshots of what has happened and where.
- Report it:
- Harmful posts, comments, messages and profiles should be reported to the online platform or service first. If they don’t help, and the abuse is very serious, report it to eSafety.
- Sharing or threatening to share an intimate image or video of you without your consent is image-based abuse – it can be reported to eSafety immediately unless you’re being blackmailed. If you’re being blackmailed, go to our advice on How to deal with sexual extortion.
- Stop contact, tighten your security settings and prevent content from being shared further.
- Get more support – with strategies to manage the impacts of cyberbullying, adult cyber abuse or image-based abuse. You can also find counselling and support services that are right for you.
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.
Our club shared competition photos to social media. There are photos of me I don’t want online. What can I do?
- 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.
Other parents in my child’s team take photos and share to their social media. I don’t want my child in these photos. What can I do?
- 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.
I’m a volunteer who manages our club’s social media page. I had to make a post about the club’s decision to cancel an event, then a member wrote something offensive in the comments section. I’ve let my club committee know. How can they help?
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.
An under-18 member contacted me directly about training times and didn’t include their parent or carer in the message. What can I do?
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.
My teammate used their personal account to write a post making fun of a player in another team. They don’t follow each other but other players might see it. What can I do?
- 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).
Someone I don’t know is harassing me online because I missed a goal that could’ve won the game. They’ve even started to threaten me. What can I do?
- 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.
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.
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Last updated: 01/11/2023