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Having safe online experiences

Understanding students’ knowledge and confidence when using digital technology means that schools, including kura and educators, can be confident they are addressing issues that are relevant for young people.

Below are some resources you can use to explore young people’s knowledge about the online environment and set expectations and culture around the use of digital technologies and how these are to be used in school.

  • Lost Summer(external link): a role-playing video game for 11-14 year olds designed by the Australian eSafety Commissioner which aims to build digital intelligence skills and encourage safe online experiences.
  • Student Voice Guide(external link): helps educators and schools to explore young people’s knowledge about the online environment as well as the online issues and challenges they face.
  • Student User Agreements(external link): designed by Netsafe to help promote a culture of online safety and can support discipline processes if necessary.

Online bullying

Online bullying is when individuals use internet-enabled devices to bully, hurt or embarrass someone online. While all young people can experience online bullying, some vulnerable communities, such as rainbow youth, experience higher rates(external link). According to Netsafe(external link), online bullying can take many forms including: 

  • name calling,
  • repeated unwanted messages,
  • spreading rumours or lies,
  • fake accounts used to harass people,
  • excluding people from social activities, and
  • embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

Educators can use the below resources to help students understand the emotional impact of online bullying, provide guidance on where to go for help and support and implement strategies to prevent online bullying.

Relationships and sexuality education

The Ministry of Education provides helpful guidance to support Relationships and Sexuality Education for years 9–13. This programme focuses strongly on consensual, healthy and respectful relationships as being essential to student wellbeing. You can check it out here:

Having healthy conversations about porn

It can be challenging to talk to ākonga about porn. To support teachers to talk about pornography when delivering Relationships and Sexuality Education in class, the Ministry of Education and the Classification Office have developed a module about pornography. Visit Ka huri i te kōrero | Changing the conversations(external link) to access the full suite of resources.

The below additional resources are also useful to support conversations with young people about pornography:

  • The Light Project(external link): have developed a series of resources to support educators with discussions about pornography, its impact and how to talk about pornography with youth.
  • In The Know(external link): a youth website (R13) with information, tools, tips, videos and support services for a wide range of porn-related and online sexual issues. It is also a great tool for educators to learn about relevant porn-related youth issues, strategies to respond and services to point students to.
  • Pornography v. Reality(external link): a good video to begin discussions about the sex acts depicted in pornographic films and how young people learn about sex and consent.
  • The Eggplant | Episode 4: Do What Derek Does(external link): a drama-crime-comedy online web series to help young Kiwis safely navigate the Internet. This episode can be used to discuss the unrealistic expectations that can arise from pornography.

Grooming and coercive online sexual relationships

Grooming is when an adult tries to build a relationship with a child so that they can sexually exploit them. Exploitation isn’t always physical, it can happen online. Groomers try to build an online relationship with the child though social media, chatting in a forum, chatting in an online game or via any other platform for online communication. Children and young people who are isolated or do not feel accepted may be more vulnerable to grooming, including young people exploring their sexuality or gender.

If you want to learn more about how groomers get close to children and how they keep control, you can refer to Netsafe.

NZ Police have developed a child abuse prevention programme for schools which helps students to recognise the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships in the physical and online worlds, and encourages students who have been or are being abused to seek help.

Some young people can be more vulnerable to coercive online sexual relationships. This can include being coerced into creating sexual content, being catfished or developing sexual relationships with benefits such as sugar daddies.  Creating any sexual content if you are under 18 years is illegal, but some young people are still at risk and curious about creating content.

Safeguarding Children have developed an eLearning module for anyone working with tamariki in the primary and intermediate sector, for example, a teacher, teacher's aide, parent/whānau helper or administrator. The module provides information on the prevention of child abuse, and how to recognise and respond to child safety and wellbeing concerns.

Sharing intimate images

The sharing of nude images among young people is not a new phenomenon. Consensual sexual interactions are a healthy part of growing up. However, the non-consensual sharing of nude images is a growing area of concern.

Below are some resources you can use to have discussions with young people about what to do when they encounter intimate content online and the harm that sharing someone else’s intimate images without their consent can cause.

  • The Eggplant | Episode 3: On Heat, Packed Meat(external link): a drama-crime-comedy online web series to help young Kiwis safely navigate the internet. This episode discusses the importance of consent, the risks associated with sharing intimate images and why it’s wrong to share someone else’s intimate images.
  • The BareFacts(external link): a campaign by Netsafe and the Classification Office that empowers young people to have positive kōrero – with peers, parents, teachers and whānau – about why nudes are sent, the need for consent and how to get help if things don’t pan out.
  • Tagged(external link): an award-winning short film supported by teaching resources that encourages young people to reflect on the real life consequences of sharing intimate images and a negative digital reputation.
  • Sharing Intimate Images: A Teacher's Guide(external link): a video that provides information about the impact of non-consensual sharing of intimate images, privacy, sex shaming, revenge porn and victim blaming.
  • In The Know – Schooling up on nudes(external link): a great place to point young people to who are considering sending nudes or have sent nudes and regretted it.  
  • In The Know – Creating sexual content(external link): resources that can help educators talk to young people who may be being coerced or offered money to sell intimate images.

Social-emotional safety skills

It’s important to prepare youth for safer, more positive experiences with people as they take on more independence, both online and offline. The Teenpower Violence Prevention Toolkit was developed with the help of teachers and students to support teens with social-emotional strategies. It includes conflict resolution, consent, advocacy, boundary setting and strategies for staying safe online.

Protecting vulnerable youth online

All young people can be exposed to harms online. However, some groups are more vulnerable than others, for example, rainbow youth or youth with neurodevelopmental disorders. For these communities the internet can be a vital resource to connect with likeminded individuals, explore their identities and reduce feelings of isolation, and it is important that educators are aware of the increased risks that young people and vulnerable communities may be exposed to online.

Empowerment Trust have created Fullpower Healthy Relationships, a programme developed with and for teens and adults with intellectual disabilities. It provides practical tools to build resiliency and to prevent bullying, violence and abuse.