Disturbing content

Just like in your offline life, when you’re online you might come across something you’d rather not see. It might be content that is upsetting, disturbing or offensive.

In short:

  • Online spaces should be safe for everyone, but you may sometimes come across disturbing content that makes you uncomfortable.
  • If you see content that makes you feel uneasy, or unsafe, you should consider reporting it so that it’s taken down. You can report content that you believe is harmful, dangerous, offensive or illegal to eSafety at any time. 
  • Your actions could protect you and others from seeing the content again.

 

Trigger warning: This page explicitly mentions illegal content, which includes sexual assault, murder and child abuse.

What is disturbing content?

Every now and then, you’ll encounter things you don’t want to see online. Someone might send you an image or a link to information that is disturbing. Learn more about Illegal and restricted content.

Everyone has different thresholds on what they find disturbing or unacceptable, but eSafety can direct a service or platform to remove:

Violent content

This can include images or stories of self-harm or actual harm.

Inappropriate content

This can include unwanted sexual images or posts promoting criminal behaviour.

Illegal content

This may show, describe, promote, or encourage violent crimes. This can include child sexual abuse, terrorist acts, murder, attempted murder, rape, or torture.

What do I do if I see disturbing content?

When you see disturbing content online, your fight, flight, freeze or fawn response might kick in. This response is the body’s natural reaction to stressful, frightening, or dangerous events. 

You may:

  • Fight: react immediately, by reporting the content straight away for example.
  • Flight: exit the app quickly and try to forget about what you saw.
  • Freeze: feel like you're unable to do anything but watch the content, even if you don't want to.
  • Fawn: try to justify seeing the disturbing content, or try to react as if it’s normal.

Each person responds differently and there’s no ‘correct’ reaction. All are valid, and you might cycle through one or two when it's happening.

However, most online platforms have community guidelines which do not allow disturbing content to circulate.

Learn how to report to different platforms via The eSafety Guide.

Ciri: How to report abuse online

Something has happened

Report to eSafety. If someone sends you a link to disturbing material, you can report it. Learn more about what to expect when reporting and how to collect evidence.

Report and block on the platform. The eSafety Guide has information about how to report content on different online platforms. Confidentially reporting content or a user to the platform before blocking them or their content can help keep the platform safe for others.

Check your privacy settings. It’s a good idea to check your privacy settings to help stop people sending you content you don’t want to see. Find out more about privacy settings in specific social media services, games and apps in The eSafety Guide.

Get help and support. A trusted adult can help if you’re struggling after seeing disturbing content. Talking to someone can make it easier to decide what to do and deal with the impact. You can also get help from confidential counselling and support services.

Get support from confidential counselling and support 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.

Headspace

12 to 25 year olds. All issues. Phone counselling available 12pm to 8pm AEST, every day. Online chat available 9am to 1am AEST, every day.

More support services