The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) regulates broadcasting, telecommunications, radio communications and the Internet in Australia. As part of its responsibilities the ACMA manages a national cybersafety education program entitled ‘Cybersmart’. The program targets children, parents, carers, teachers and library staff, and aims to assist these target audiences to manage online risks in order that their experiences are both safe and positive. Cybersmart aims to present positive messages about the internet while at the same time embedding protective behaviours among children, young people, parents and teachers.
The growth of online social networking over the past few years has been significant. This is reflected in the increasing number of children and young people who take part in online social networks. Equally, and evidenced through stories in the mainstream media, the effect of social networks on the lives of children and young people are seemingly being felt more and more often in the offline environment.
The risks associated with online activities are prevalent yet not always perceived by children, young people or adults. While considerable work has been done in the past in developing Cybersmart strategies and resources, constant technological development and emerging and changing trends among target audiences require this work to be regularly re-visited and updated.
The overall objective of the research was to explore the knowledge, attitudes, opinions, behaviours and perceptions of young people in regards to their use of the internet, social networking services, the risks involved and their risk management strategies. The four core objectives of the research were as follows:
> Understand children and young people’s attitudes toward and perceptions of social networking services;
> Identify attitudes and behaviours which profile children and young people’s online risk level;
> Understand children and young people’s self-management of online risk, including through protective behaviours and resilience; and
> Explore the role of families and peers in children and young people’s experience and use of social networking services.