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eSafety reveals a significant increase in online harms

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eSafety reveals significant increase in online harms

eSafety has revealed a significant increase in online harms through the first half of 2021, even in the absence of extended lockdowns, in their new statistics. 

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher said that with the lockdowns in major cities is leading to a surge in internet use, Australians should be prepared for a likely increase in online harms. 

Complaints of serious cyberbullying towards children have increased by almost 30 per cent in 2020. Meanwhile, complaints of cyber abuse directed against adults are up by almost half during the same period. Reports to eSafety’s prohibited online content scheme were up by more than 30 per cent in the first half of this year. 

Minister Fletcher urged Australians to maintain similar standards of civility online as are commonly observed in everyday life. He also encouraged parents to remain closely involved in the online activities of their children. 

“Previous lockdowns have reinforced that the internet is overwhelmingly a positive aspect of our lives, but they have also highlighted some of the negatives,” Minister Fletcher said. 

“From March 2020, during the first wave of COVID and resulting lockdowns, the eSafety Commissioner experienced an unprecedented increase in reports of all online harm types, including abuse, cyberbullying, image-based abuse and unwanted exposure to illegal and harmful content.” 

The eSafety Commissioner provides a range of online safety guidance, such as steps to keep your family safe online that include: 

  • Starting the chat about online safety as a family. 
  • Creating a Family Technology Agreement to help you and your kids decide when and how digital technology will be used at home. 
  • Setting up parental controls to monitor and limits what kids see and do online. 
  • Choosing games and other apps carefully. 
  • Using digital technology together. 

The eSafety Commissioner has a range of tailored information and resources on online safety, including free online webinars for parents and carers. 

Keeping Australians safe online is a priority of the Government. Parliament passed the Online Safety Act 2021 last month, improving online safety for Australians by providing new and strengthened powers for the eSafety Commissioner to deal with cyberbullying, online abuse, image-based abuse and harmful online content.

The Government has also invested an extra $15 million for eSafety to bolster its investigations teams for a better response towards reports of image-based abuse, adult cyber abuse, cyberbullying and harmful online content.

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