Don’t put up with online abuse
In the past year, you’ve probably spent a lot of time online. With COVID‑19 leading to blended study, and more catch-ups with friends and family happening over online platforms, we have become more reliant on digital technology than ever before.
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 or last? 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 behaviour and can be a very distressing thing to experience or witness.
If you have experienced or seen any offensive, discriminatory, harassing, bullying or other inappropriate behaviours, Deakin can support you. Please contact:
- Safer Community – Deakin’s central point of contact for reports of sexual harm, domestic and family violence, and reports of concerning behaviour. All assistance is confidential.
- Student Conduct Team – investigates allegations of poor student behaviour, conduct issues and policy breaches. You can report any concerns through an online form. Student Conduct will respect your privacy, and you can also report anonymously or on behalf of someone else if you wish.
Remember that all Deakin students are expected to:
- act in the best interests of the University – whether you’re on campus or elsewhere
- act in accordance with Deakin values
- refrain from any behaviours defined as misconduct in the Vice-Chancellor’s Regulation
- act in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct and Rights and Responsibilities.
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:
- Deakin Counselling and Psychological Support (CAPS)
- your local police station
- 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
- Lifeline (13 11 14).