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Inappropriate content: factsheet

Key points 

  • Many young people are exposed to content that they are not ready for developmentally.
  • If the content is illegal or needs to have restricted access for people who are 18 or older, you can report it to eSafety.
  • The eSafety Guide includes information on features of apps that increase exposure to inappropriate content.
  • eSafety Education has resources to help teachers explore this issue with their students.
  • All students need to be taught specific technical, personal and social skills to help them minimise their exposure to inappropriate content.

Facts and stats

Inappropriate content may be an image, video or written words that can be upsetting, disturbing or offensive. Young people may encounter inappropriate content accidentally or deliberately. It is normal to be curious, but young people may be faced with concepts they are not ready for developmentally.

Inappropriate content may include:

  • sexually explicit material 
  • false or misleading information
  • violence
  • extremism or terrorism
  • hateful or offensive material. 

The exposure of young people to inappropriate content is difficult to measure because many instances go unreported. A child may come across inappropriate content and not tell anyone due to embarrassment, confusion or fear. Given this, the percentage of young people encountering inappropriate or hateful content online could be higher than stated.

According to eSafety research

A high proportion of young people aged 12 to 17 in Australia have encountered inappropriate or hateful content online

57% have seen real violence that was disturbing

33% have seen images or videos promoting terrorism

Nearly half of children between the ages of 9 to 16 experience regular exposure to sexual images(1)
(1) Source: The effects of pornography on children and young people Australian Institute of Family Studies.

How to report and block

Reporting to eSafety 

Australian residents can make a complaint to eSafety about illegal and restricted online content. This includes child sexual abuse material and abhorrent violent material showing terrorist acts, murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping or torture.

The eSafety Guide includes information to help teachers and students choose safer apps and to report and block inappropriate content.

App features that increase the risk

Content sharing

Content may be shared with an individual or limited group of users, or it may be publicly available for anyone to view, access, forward or download. Content includes text messages, emails, comments, images, videos or any file format containing data. Content sharing can be a great way to connect with people, share information and stay up to date, however it may also expose users to violent, sexualised or age-inappropriate content.

Apps used for content sharing include: Instagram, Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, Tumblr, Discord, Snapchat

Live streaming

Live streaming refers to online media that is simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real-time to the viewer. All you need to be able to live stream is an internet enabled device, like a smartphone or tablet, and a broadcast platform, such as a website or app.

Live streaming is different to video calling as it does not allow two-way audio and video communication. It can be difficult to moderate content that is live streamed, so users may be exposed to content not appropriate for their age.

Apps used for live streaming include: Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitch, LiveMe

eSafety resources — Inappropriate content

The eSafety website includes advice for kids, young people or adults come across inappropriate content.

Primary classroom resources

Hector’s world (animated series)
Inappropriate Content (video)

Middle Primary

Young and eSafe (videos and lesson plans)
The YeS Project (video and lesson plans)

Resources for parents

Parental controls (advice on safe searching and device filters)

Prevent and manage exposure to inappropriate content

From Early Years to Year 2 students should build skills in:

  • identifying online behaviours that make them feel safe and unsafe
  • identifying and describing emotional responses people may experience in different online situations
  • removing themselves from unsafe online situations if they come across inappropriate content 
  • describing strategies to help them search for safe, reliable information on safe search engines and websites.

Between Years 3 to 6, students should:

  • develop an awareness of situations that might increase their exposure to inappropriate content online
  • examine primary and secondary online sources to determine origin, purpose and reliability, and describe and apply strategies that can be used to reduce and manage exposure to harmful content
  • question what they encounter online and begin to think critically about issues including body image, gender identity, racism, fake news and democracy
  • investigate support services such as eSafety and Kids Helpline
  • consider ways to setup their devices and apps to minimise accidental exposure to inappropriate content, for example, using screen time tools

From Years 7 to 10 students should:

  • evaluate online sources for their reliability and usefulness and select from appropriate primary and secondary online sources
  • use critical thinking and questioning skills when consuming online content
  • have strategies for making informed decisions when they encounter disinformation (false or misleading information distributed with the purpose to deceive)
  • recognise the laws that govern online interactions and explore challenges such as ways of sustaining a resilient democracy and cohesive society, given the impact and implications of online technology
  • explore app features that can be used to control what they see in their feed.

Appendix A: Curriculum links


Visit the Online Safety Curriculum Connection to:

  • identify more content in the Australian Curriculum that supports the teaching and learning of online safety 
  • access a range of interdisciplinary resources developed to support the teaching and learning of online safety.

Appendix B: Research and useful links 

Young people and social cohesion – eSafety Commissioner

The effects of pornography on children and young people – Australian Institute of Family Studies 

Parenting and pornography – eSafety Commissioner

Gen Bet: Has gambling gate crashed our teens? – Victorian Respons ible Gambling Foundation  

State of play – youth, kids and digital dangers – eSafety Commissioner

#chatsafe: A young person’s guide for communicating safely online about suicide – Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Mental health support for Australian students, teachers, and schools following large scale incidents – Headspace  

Last updated: 03/08/2023