Welcome to Safer Internet Day 2022.
This year we mark 18 years of this global event that started as a European Union initiative in 2004 and is now celebrated on 8 February annually in about 200 countries and territories.
From cyberbullying to social networking to digital identity, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns.
In 2022, we’re asking Australians to promote positive online behaviours – the actions we can all take to #PlayitFairOnline. We're encouraging people to share video messages on social media, use the campaign assets to promote online safety messages at work and school, and consider how simple actions can bring about big change.
This year’s campaign theme took its inspiration from a landmark roundtable meeting last November between eSafety and senior officials from 24 Australian sporting organisations aimed at fighting the growing issue of online abuse experienced by players and fans.
From that event I am delighted that participants signed an online safety commitment to collaborate with eSafety and other agencies to fight the growing issue of racist, sexist, homophobic slurs, and threats of violence online.
An important part of Safer Internet Day here in Australia is letting people know about the resources, advice and support available from eSafety to make their online interactions safer.
We are also very privileged to have several elite athletes adding their voices to this year’s #PlayitFairOnline theme, spreading the word about a range of online resources created by eSafety to support schools and the community
Listening to young Australians
Today, we also unveil new research with important insights into young Australians’ experiences online in the second half of 2021. We surveyed more than 3,500 8- to 17-year olds and their parents to better understand the opportunities and challenges they encounter online.
Interestingly, we found that face-to-face bullying is still more prevalent than cyberbullying in Australia, despite the proliferation of cyberbullying during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While 55% of young Australians told us they had been treated in a hurtful or nasty way face-to-face in the past 12 months, 45% experienced this online. More than half also witnessed hurtful or nasty treatment of someone else.
Encouragingly, we are seeing young people are feeling more empowered to act against negative online experiences: Sixty-four per cent responded by blocking or unfriending people, up from 46% in 2017.
More concerning, however, are the significant gaps in parents’ awareness of the types of harms children can experience online.
Parents have low awareness of children’s exposure to harmful content on topics such as drug taking, suicide, self-harm and unhealthy eating, grisly images, and violent sexual material – 6 out of 10 of teens have been exposed to such topics while 4 out of 10 parents were aware.
Parents also have limited awareness about bullying experiences. Nearly 70% of the kids who were treated in a hurtful or nasty way online told their parents. But parents don’t recall these experiences to the same extent, with 51% of parents saying they were aware.
Our research reinforces the key role parents play in children’s digital lives and how parenting needs to be mindful, nurturing and evolve as children mature and meet different challenges online. See the full report: Mind the gap: Parental awareness of children’s exposure to risks online.
New protections against online abuse
We also have a special reason to celebrate Safer Internet Day this year following the commencement of added protections against online harms for all Australians.
The new Online Safety Act 2021 strengthens and expands our existing laws, including the introduction of an Adult Cyber Abuse scheme – the first of its kind in the world.
The new laws allow eSafety to compel the takedown of illegal or seriously harmful content, whether it is child sexual exploitation material, pro-terrorist content, image-based abuse, adult cyber abuse, or serious cyberbullying of a child.
You can learn more about the new laws and how they will help you here.
On Safer Internet Day I encourage everyone to stop and think about how we can show respect whenever we post, tweet or text – by changing our behaviours, we can make every day Safer Internet Day. Find out how you can help spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of respect online at #PlayitFairOnline.