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Keeping children safe online


Children who are the victims of cyberbullying are often depressed, self-harming and having suicidal thoughts, yet they won’t tell their parents about the online abuse for fear of having their technology taken away, a public forum has been told.

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Greg Gebhart, senior outreach trainer from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, told the Cross Road Forum on April 10 that cyberbullying of children – and indeed now adults – continued to be an ongoing cause of concern.

“Some of the signs the child may be bullied are changes in personality, being slightly withdrawn, changes in friendships, not sleeping, not doing well at school or in sport and avoiding where the bully is,” he explained.

“We are finding that children don’t tell their parents that they are being cyberbullied for fear they will take the technology away from them, but they will tell their grandparents,” he said.

Established by the Federal Government in 2015 in response to growing concerns about the cyber safety of children, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has legislative powers to act on cyberbullying and have offensive and illegal material taken down from the internet.

“Our office can investigate a complaint and if it is deemed to be concerning towards the child we can have it taken down on average of 20 hours,” Mr Gebhart said.

“We are the first in the world to have a tier system where we can go to our partners to have content taken down. If something happens on the internet that is causing major distress we have 24 hour/7 day a week access to the highest level of that company to get that content down.”

Partnerships are currently in place with social media companies including Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, Google, Roblox, Snapchat, Twitter, Yubo, Yahoo, airG, ASKfm and Flickr.

Mr Gebhart said the Office dealt with numerous cyber issues and the landscape was constantly changing.

“We are one of the fastest and biggest growing department of the Australian Government. When we formed we had 27 people full time in the Office and now we have over 80,” he told the forum.

An innovation in recent times has included developing resources to support women who are victims of domestic violence.

“In 98 per cent of cases there is someone using technology (such as a phone) to stalk them, track them, follow them, send them abuse, upset them, distress them – so we have developed a program called eSafety Women.”

Two months ago the Office also launched its Image Based Abuse (IBA) portal, to address what is commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’.

Mr Gebhart said this occurred when couples shared intimate images while in a relationship, however when the relationship soured one of the parties shared these images without the other person’s consent. Certain groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and women aged 18-25, were more likely to be targeted, and 18-20 IBA complaints are received by the eSafety Commissioner each day.

Sexting continues to be an issue with children and if the photo goes viral can have a huge impact on the child involved.

“As an adult and not growing up in this generation we struggle to understand why kids do this sort of stuff,” Mr Gebhart said, but he added older Australians were not immune to the pitfalls of the internet.

“We’re also supporting seniors in Australia as they are getting scammed more than any other age group. Last year $10.8 million was scammed from Australian adults over 55 years in online dating sites.”

Overall, Mr Gebhart said people should not be “fearful” of technology but instead be aware of the importance of privacy settings and seeking assistance when there was a cyber safety issue.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner offers a range of resources covering different topics on its website. There are also details on how to make a complaint. For more information go to



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