Working a different angle at the coalface

  • Mother and daughter on laptop

While it may seem odd that the head of the world’s first dedicated online safety regulator is writing an article for rural health practitioners and their advocates
– please don’t stop reading. Our working worlds are more entwined than you might think.

The eSafety Commissioner is dedicated to keeping people safe online. We’re a team of educators, investigators, policy and technology experts and other professionals who share one goal: a safer and more positive online experience for all Australians.

While much of our work is in the prevention and education space, we’re also working at the coalface of online harms. Our regulatory powers allow us to remove seriously harmful content and, in doing so, we support thousands of Australians each month who have reported their experiences to us. We hear from children who can’t escape their schoolyard bullies and mothers who always feel the eyes of their tormentor upon them. We talk to young men who’ve been sexually extorted and women who’ve stumbled across their intimate images in public forums.

In carrying out our work, we’re mindful that some people are much more at risk of these harms than others and a concerted effort is needed to reach and better support these groups. Women fall into this category with international research, as well as eSafety’s own research, showing that women and girls are subjected to very high levels of online abuse simply because they are women.

As we harness the incredible potential of the online world to push boundaries and conquer new worlds, we must do this in a way that assures safety for all citizens. Safety cannot play second fiddle to profit, innovation and market share. We must learn from the mistakes of today. Our health and wellbeing are just two things at stake if we don’t.

For those of you also working at the coalface, albeit addressing physical and mental illness, I need not remind you of the sobering statistics on domestic violence, youth self-harm and male suicide. I can only imagine how your work has become more painful, complex and fraught as the effects of the pandemic continue to reverberate across our communities. But I will say that these health issues frequently have an online dimension – and eSafety has a small but vital role in supporting you and your community.

Free training for domestic and family violence services

We provide free training to frontline services to help you identify and manage the online and technological dimensions of domestic violence. Low-tech and high-tech devices are often weaponised by perpetrators to conduct around-the-clock surveillance. Our free training will help you to identify these abuses, giving you greater confidence to carry out your vital work. More information is at esafety.gov.au/support-worker-webinars.

Support for targets of serious cyberbullying

If you work with children and young people who are being cyberbullied, you can encourage them to report it to us – or seek their permission to report on their behalf. When we receive a report of serious cyberbullying, we coordinate with other agencies to provide wraparound support to the child, as well as remove the harmful content. Find out more at esafety.gov.au/report.

Join the online safety movement

I also encourage you to look after your own online safety – and the safety of family, friends and colleagues. Start by reviewing your device settings, agree on the scope of your family tech agreement, and the parental controls that will be used on your child’s device – all things we walk you through at eSafety.gov.au. Share this information with others and, as much as you’re confident and able, call out online abuse wherever you see it.

These might seem like small things but, when multiplied 26 million times, they can make the online world a healthier, safer space for all.

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