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Published 30 November 2020

Don’t put up with online abuse

Deakin Student Life

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In 2020, you’ve probably spent more time online than ever, with COVID‑19 making it necessary to study from home, and catch-ups with friends and family happening mostly over digital platforms.

The internet should be a safe, productive and enjoyable space for everyone. But have you – or has someone you know – had an unpleasant or scary online experience this year? Unfortunately, just like in the physical world, people online sometimes cross the line and become abusive, bullying or aggressive.

This is a particular problem for young women and minority groups, who are often the targets of sexist, harassing or disrespectful comments. Research shows this issue is more prevalent in Australia than in some other countries – with 65 per cent of girls and young women reporting online harassment or abuse. The number of these incidents increased in 2020.

I think it’s awful – but what can I do about it?

If you’ve ever seen a comment on social media and been upset or offended, you may have felt powerless to do anything. The kinds of people who make abusive comments hide behind their keyboards and anonymous avatars, and it’s easy to think that there’s no way to call it out.

Well, there is something you can do – become an active online bystander – someone who says or does something when they see harassment and discrimination.

GenVic, the peak body for gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women, has created a social media toolkit and video to help people become active bystanders on social media. You’ll learn how to stand up for what you think is right online, and how to safely step in when you see someone participating in or encouraging discrimination.

Another handy tool is the Office of the eSafety Commissioner’s guide to the latest games, apps and social media, which includes details on how to protect your information and report inappropriate content for each platform.

What if the abuse happens in a Deakin online space?

Have you witnessed or experienced poor online behaviour by a Deakin student, or something that makes you feel unsafe, uncomfortable or threatened? This is not acceptable.

For help with offensive or discriminatory language or actions, and cases of bullying or harassment, please contact:

Remember that all Deakin students are expected to:

What if I don’t feel safe getting involved?

While standing up to online abuse is just so important, your safety should always be the priority.

Don’t feel under pressure to get involved in a situation if you think it could be unsafe or risky. GenVic advises you to do what you can – things like taking screenshots, reporting posts to social media platform administrators and reporting harassment to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

If you’re concerned, support is also available from:



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