ACMA releases paper on sharing information, especially photos, over smartphones. Another privacy issue where the law is lagging technology

November 29, 2013 |

Today the ACMA commences a campaign on the usage of smart devices, especially phones, by youth and the consequences of oversharing. ACMA has set up a cybersmart website found here.

The media release (found here) relevantly provides:

It’s something all too obvious to parents of teenagers: how much life has changed in the last three years, let alone since they were teens. And with smartphones now in most teens’ pockets, using Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and hashtags, the ins and outs of social media can be a mystery to parents.  

To help parents, students and school communities navigate the online world, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher, MP, will today launch a series of new Cybersmart resources at De La Salle College in the Sydney suburb of Revesby.

‘Smartphones and social media have been game-changers for young people, shaping the way they talk, work and play.

‘New apps and technologies are exciting for teens – but they can also bring a new set of personal and social challenges. The Cybersmart resources are designed to help parents and teens ask the right questions and make smart decisions about how, when and what they share online.

‘The Government is progressing its election commitments in relation to online safety and will be issuing a discussion paper shortly,’ said Mr Fletcher, MP.

One of the resources, So You Got Naked Online?, is a practical, no-nonsense guide for teenagers. It provides the advice, information and reassurance teens need to handle the potential fallout from negative sexting experiences. Originally developed in the UK, Privacy Victoria and Cyber Safe Kids worked with the ACMA to adapt the resource for Australian teens. An infographic with more information is available.

Also launched will be the Get Cyberstarted program, a suite of resources available for school communities and intended to help parents and teachers start conversations with children about online safety issues. The resources, which cover a range of cybersafety topics such as cyberbullying and safe social networking, are designed to be easily customised by schools to meet the needs of their particular community.

Finally, a series of easy-to-follow Q&A sheets for parents will also be released, dealing with the latest social networking sites popular with children such as Instagram and They aim to assist parents in answering the burning questions they may have about their child’s use of social media – particularly the question of whether their child is old enough to be on a particular platform.  

The launch, titled #GenSmartphone – what’s next?, will be attended by more than 300 students, parents and teachers. It includes a Q&A forum in which parents discussed the ‘selfie’ and ‘sexting’ culture of young people, how parents can effectively address online risks and other online behavioral issues.

On Sexting ACMA produced a page/paper stitled So you got naked on line.  It is found here.  It provides:


Sexting is when sexual photos or videos are shared via mobiles or online posts. If your child has been involved in sexting, there are things you can do to help them manage the situation.  

Teens are on show?their mistakes are publicOur children’s mistakes may become public fodder. This is not because we have raised them badly, but simply because the technology allows it. This is quite different to our childhood.

Why did they sext?

Researcher Danah Boyd says teens share images for all kinds of reasons…to express developing sexuality, to impress or be liked and to keep up with what they think is the norm.

Most images are shared within relationships and most teens don’t expect images to be shared with others, with the exception of a few who hope they will gain fame.

How do I support them?

If their image has been viewed by others they may be publicly bullied and have sexually inappropriate comments made about them by friends and strangers, including adults.

Providing support will help buffer the impact of bullying. Keep them connected to trusted friends and family online and offline. Stop them reading offensive comments. Keep an eye on them and get others to do so as well. If you are worried or your child is vulnerable, seek professional support.

Minimising the spread of images

Unfortunately once shared online, many images end up on sites that are used for adult gratification. Act fast to help prevent this. If schoolmates are involved the school may be able to help.

Help your teen identify where the images might be and send take-down requests to all sites.

Send messages to all kids who may have received an image asking them to delete immediately.

Help them block any people who make offensive comments about them and report them to the police if necessary.

The law

While it can be a crime to take and share sexual images of people under 18, the police don’t usually prosecute if there is no harm to those involved.

They are more likely to get in trouble with the law if they have deliberately shared a photo or video of someone without their consent, especially if they meant to embarrass or humiliate them.

If the police get involved they will want to know how the image/video was made and where it might have been sent/posted. They will want to know who was involved and whether there was consent from all involved. Help your child put together a record of what happened and where images and videos might be.

Warning signs – don’t ignore them

  • If your child’s behaviour changes at home and/or school you should talk to them. Examples of worrying changes include seeming less interested in things they used to like, not connecting with friends as they used to, seeming more withdrawn, appearing unhappy a lot of the time, changed eating and/or sleeping (more or less of either). If your child seems to think poorly of themselves act straight away. Seek professional advice if necessary including through the school counsellor, your GP or a psychologist.
  • If your child has particular vulnerabilities, be vigilant about their contacts offline and online. Help them join groups out of school where they can find friends and support. Talk to the school and make sure they are supported.
  • Kids Helpline provides free online and phone counselling for children and young people up to 25 years of age. / 1800 55 1800
  • Headspace and Lifeline on 13 11 14 also provide free counselling and support.

Where do I go for help?

School support

If you are concerned about your child’s involvement in a sexting incident, their school may be able to help. For more information, contact your child’s school.


If you suspect or know that your child has been involved in sexting incident, consider seeking professional support for them including through the Online Helpline provided by Kids Helpline. The service provides free, confidential online counselling for children and young people. Your child’s school may also be able to provide support and guidance.

The Q & A and fact sheets are found here.

All of this is an excellent iniative.  It would be better if the law caught up with the reality of technological development and provided greater protection.  Having a serious look at the law as it applies to sexting and refining it so that people and actions not intended to be criminalised are removed from the operation of the criminal law (see recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform enquiry into sexting).  Extending the operation of the Privacy Act would be a good start at the Commonwealth level.  The small business exemption makes little sense.  Broadening the protection is also necessary.  Mandating notifcation of data breaches should legislated, as it almost was in the last Parliament (with bi partisan support) and establishing a statutory right to privacy.


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