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The power to understand and respect differences

It’s OK to be yourself online. But expressing hate, racism, sexism and violence is not OK and can harm others. We all have a responsibility to stand up and speak out against bad behaviour online.


This video is a dramatic scenario used to provoke thought about showing respect to other people online. It features a teenage male and female, played by actors. The teenage male walks into his room, sits at his desk and looks at his computer.

He opens a social media website and reads a post

Sarah has posted a photo of a girl with the caption “Indy Mindy thought I was actually taking a photo!

Other users post nasty comments “Would not go there if you paid me”, and “Loser!”

The teenage male looks angry and starts typing a comment “Someone get this bitch a mirror!” but pauses before submitting the post.

The camera zooms into the photo, changing the situation from a photo to the real life scene as the camera pans around the main girl. Various comments appear as text in the air around her.

The camera shows the young man standing in the real life scenario, looking concerned about all of the nasty comments made by others.

The camera pans around the teenage male who appears back in his home sitting at his computer with his comment still on the screen unposted

He shakes his head, highlights the text from his comment and deletes it.The teenage male sits back and looks relieved. Text appears “I respect differences”

Logo shows the Australian coat of arms above the words Australian Government, and the eSafety Commissioner with the web address

The power to understand and respect differences

Respect works both ways and if you want respect you have to give it as well.

'Everyone is allowed their opinion …' (Liam, 17)

  • Do you listen to others’ views and provide thoughtful responses?
  • How is their view different from yours?
  • What makes you think you’re right?
  • How can you find a middle ground you are both happy with?
  • How do you show respect for people’s ideas and values?

U can … treat others how you want to be treated.

Things like gossiping or putting someone down, even as a joke, can be hurtful. Saying sorry when you make a mistake or hurt someone shows that you respect their feelings. Being kind and sharing things that make others happy are examples of how you can be positive online.

U can … listen to other people’s views and respect their choices.

It’s OK to be different! Be interested and open to a different perspective — even if you have a differing opinion. Get to know people before making a judgement about them.

U can … question other peoples’ opinions respectfully.

Be confident to challenge ideas that are different to yours, or seem false, strange or illegal. You can still share different opinions and have interesting conversations without being aggressive. You can challenge things respectfully by challenging the ‘idea’ and not the person. Acknowledge that their opinion is valid, ask questions about the topic, use ‘I’ statements to describe how you feel or think, and find common ground.

U can … make decisions for yourself and respect boundaries.

If you’re not comfortable doing something, you can communicate your own boundaries and not pressure other people to overstep theirs. Remember that you don’t have to deal with anything online that you don’t want to. You are in control of who you talk to, and what you do.

If someone pushes your boundaries, you can let them know how you feel and then tell them what you would like them to do, such as ‘I don’t feel comfortable talking about that. Let’s talk about something else’; ‘I don’t send nude photos of myself so please don’t keep asking’. If they continue to push your boundaries, they are not showing you respect and you may want to block or delete them.

U can … stand up to online hate.

Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to challenge people, but having the courage to express a different point of view when you feel someone is being treated badly is how we can encourage a more positive online world.

U can … respect the privacy of others.

Think about who might see the content and what the impact might be before you share photos or make comments about people online. Will it upset them? Could it damage their reputation? How would you feel if someone shared something like this about you? What if your own judgement about sharing or posting is different from theirs? The only way you will know if it’s OK to share is to ask them first.

U can … give people the benefit of the doubt.

It isn’t always easy to identify what someone is saying online when we can’t see their face or hear their tone of voice. If you’re not sure what someone means — ask! Remember jokes can be easily misinterpreted. Using emoticons or a smiley can help make sure other people understand that your own comments are meant to be friendly.

U can … respect yourself.

Listen to your own feelings, be kind to yourself, and don’t put yourself down. Value yourself for who you are and express your needs and how you feel about things.

U can … think before you respond.

Don’t text or post while angry. You might say things you regret. Sleep on it or ask someone to read what you have written before you hit send.

U can … pick your battles.

Don’t feed the trolls! You don’t need to take everything personally or respond to everything you disagree with. Pick and choose what to respond to and how to respond to make the biggest impact. Sometimes saying nothing or ignoring is more powerful than arguing.

Some expert advice

  • Keep disrespectful contacts and content out of your feed. Learn to use social media features such as hiding, filtering, blocking and reporting to help you control what you see.
  • Ask for any disrespectful or embarrassing information about you to be taken down. If it doesn’t happen, report it to the website administrator.
  • If your issue involves cyberbullying, harassment or online crimes like ID theft or hacking, take immediate action. Block the sender and keep records of posts or conversations. Notify the police if there are physical threats.
  • If you are being seriously cyberbullied and you have reported it to the social media service, you can also contact eSafety for support and help.
  • If someone is disrespecting you and you aren’t sure what to do, talk to a friend or trusted adult about the issue and your feelings. They might be able to offer different perspectives or advice on how to handle the problem.
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission can investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying based on a range of things like a person’s sex, disability, race, age, sexual preference and religion. Other places you can also find information and support are: Islamicare and Online Hate Prevention Institute.
  • Seek professional help. You can contact Kids Helpline (for ages 5 to 25 years) for confidential support 24/7 — they can help you figure out how to solve your problems your way.

Resources for teachers

This page is part of the Young and eSafe classroom resource.

For lesson plans and other information go to Young and eSafe: about this resource

Last updated: 06/09/2019