HOME PARENTS CYBER ISSUES OFFENSIVE OR ILLEGAL CONTENT

Offensive or illegal content

Children and young people may not deliberately seek out inappropriate content. Children may inadvertently access content while undertaking online searches or they may seek it out or be referred content by others. Young people with smartphones might discover content that may be blocked by home and school internet filters.

This is content that:

  • includes footage of real or simulated violence, criminal activity or accidents, from video clips, games or films
  • is sexually explicit and can include illegal images of child sexual abuse
  • promotes extreme political views, potentially used in the radicalisation of vulnerable members of the community
  • promotes hate towards individuals or groups, on the basis of race, religion, sexual preference or other social/cultural factors
  • instructs or promotes crime, violence or unsafe behaviour, like bomb or weapon making, drug use, gaining unauthorised access to computers, fraud or terrorist activities
  • online advertising which promotes adult content.

Some content that is considered inappropriate may also be prohibited or illegal in Australia. Prohibited content is defined with reference to the National Classification Code categories RC, X18+, R18+ and MA15+. While it is not an offence to view or possess prohibited content, the ACMA can take action under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to restrict the availability of such material. Further information on prohibited online content, including how to make a complaint to the ACMA if you or a student comes across this type of content, is available on the ACMA’s website.

How do children access inappropriate content?

Children may be exposed to such content through otherwise innocuous activities, such as:

  • unexpected results from online searches
  • clicking on unknown links within websites or emails
  • incorrectly typing a web address or clicking on a pop-up ad
  • clicking on online game content or prize offers.

In some cases children and young people deliberately access inappropriate material, particularly as they move into adolescence. This can be out of curiosity or to share with peers for the ‘shock value’ of the content.

Inappropriate content can expose children to concepts that they are not ready to manage and that may breach social and cultural norms. Some content can be distressing for children. They may not report it to parents or teachers as they may be ashamed of what they have seen particularly if they sought it out.

What is prohibited online content?

Some content that is considered inappropriate may also be prohibited or illegal in Australia. Prohibited content is defined with reference to the National Classification Code categories RC, X18+, R18+ and MA15+.

While it is not an offence to view or possess prohibited content, the ACMA can take action under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to restrict the availability of this type of material. Content that is prohibited is any online content that is classified RC (refused classification) or X 18+ by the Classification Board.

Further information on prohibited online content, including what constitutes prohibited content and how to make a complaint to the ACMA if you or your child comes across this type of content, is available on the ACMA’s website.

Limiting children’s exposure to inappropriate content

Filters, labels and safe zones enable parents to reduce children’s risk of exposure to unsuitable or illegal sites and to set time limits for internet access. When deciding which tools are the most appropriate for your family, it may be useful to consider the level of guidance needed from you and balance this against your children's ages and the range of content they may need to access.

PC filters

PC filters are computer software programs on your computer which offer a range of different functions to block, screen or monitor inappropriate content. Many filters can also be customised to suit the internet activities of each user. Common features of PC filters include:

  • category blocking which enables the user to select from a range of content categories. For example pornography and violence, and decide which to block and which to allow
  • time controls, which allow users to limit internet access to certain times of the day, including the amount of time a child spends on the internet. This can help ensure children can only use the internet when parents are available to supervise and can restrict late night use which is tempting for some teens
  • logging which enables parents to track and record a history of sites visited by their child
  • service blocking which allows users to block or filter access to certain services, such as peer-to-peer, social networking or online games.

The ACMA regularly updates a list of prohibited content. These web pages are blocked by the internet content filters listed under the Internet Industry Association Family Friendly Filters program.

Server level filters

Server-level filters are able to block internet content before it reaches the home. These filters are most commonly provided by internet service providers (ISPs).

Internet filters are no substitute for parental guidance and supervision. No filtering tool can block all unsuitable material. As the internet is vast and constantly changing, lists of blocked sites must be continuously updated for the filter to work effectively. Even then, some undesirable sites may still slip through the filter.

Labels

Labelling tools attach descriptive tags to websites. Most browsers can read these labels and be programmed to block access to these sites or advise when sites are unsuitable for children. Labelling tools can also complement filtering tools.

Websites can be labelled according to how suitable they are for children or to identify the sort of material that they contain, for example, medium-level sexual activity.

These tools, together with a web browser, enable users to set levels of access for labelled sites, blocking access to anything above those levels. Some browsers also allow users to restrict access to unlabelled sites.

While labelling tools are useful, most websites are still unlabelled.

Safe zones

Safe zones are secure networks offering access to a range of sites specially designed for children and therefore with little risk of exposure to inappropriate content. Many safe zones are free of charge but some are subscription based, requiring a special login and password as they are protected from other areas on the internet.

Look for the Ladybird symbol

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has a Family Friendly Internet Service Provider (ISP) Seal Program which shows which ISPs have agreed to comply with the IIA Codes of Practice.   Under the IIA Codes, ISPs are required to provide their users with certain information, plus the option of obtaining an IIA "Family Friendly Filter”.  For more information see the IIA

Where do I go for help?

Reporting inappropriate or illegal content

Further information on prohibited online content, including what constitutes prohibited content and how to make a complaint to the ACMA if you or your child comes across this type of content, is available on the ACMA’s website.

Counselling

Kids Helpline

Kids Helpline provides free, confidential online and phone counselling for 5-25 year olds.

1800 55 1800

eheadspace

eheadspace is for 12-25 year olds in need of support or worried about their mental health.

1800 650 890

Young Kids

A space for you to play games, watch videos and have fun!

Kids

Draw pictures, watch videos and learn about staying safe online.

Teens

Learn how to deal with issues and take control of your digital world.