Creating safer online environments

Issue: Volume 97, Number 19

Posted: 26 October 2018
Reference #: 1H9n8c

The Netsafe Kit can help teachers and schools to understand and address the behaviours that cause online bullying.

The free Netsafe Kit, part of the new 2018 Netsafe Schools Programme, supports schools to create a safe online environment by providing information about responding to online incidents, classroom and community engagement and long-term strategic planning.

New Zealand Police Schools Coordinator Roly Hermans says the kit is a positive resource that can help teachers respond appropriately and provide support to students affected by online bullying.

“It’s basically about ensuring that kids are safe online, but it’s also making sure that they get the best of what they can get online,” he says.

“The online environment is their world and there’s so much potential in there, so it’s about making sure they can use that potential safely.”

Focusing on behaviours

Focusing on behaviours instead of technology allows schools to work to prevent online bullying by understanding and addressing the root causes of these behaviours. It also helps schools to set online safety goals and measure progress.

“If we concentrate on the technology, we’re always playing a chasing game. The students are well ahead of us on what technology they can use, so if they are doing something unsafe in one particular app and we concentrate on blocking that app, they’ll just start onto another,” says Roly.

“There is a link between online bullying and real life bullying – often those behaviours are related, so again concentrating on one without looking at the other may mean you’re missing out on something.”

To use the resource to its full potential, Roly advocates a whole-school approach, rather than a single-teacher approach. He also encourages schools to make use of the kit before an incident occurs.

“If you’re jumping in when issues arise, you haven’t done any of the prevention work,”
he says.

“Get into the kit now, before things happen. It has some great surveys and tools that your school can use to gain insights into your digital environment, self-review your current planning, and plan what to focus on.”

Netsafe Director of Technology and Partnerships Sean Lyons says online bullying can be isolating and devastating.

“Often people will try to deal with these issues on their own; people don’t like to talk about them often. The thing to remember for teachers is that when young people start to raise issues of online bullying and harassment, they’ve probably already been through a lot of steps in terms of trying to manage the problem themselves,” he says.

“When young people start to talk about these issues, it is already at the serious stage; they’re looking for guidance and support in how to deal with things that they don’t know how to support themselves through.”

Who is affected by online bullying?

Research undertaken earlier this year by Netsafe and the Ministry for Women aimed to understand the online behaviour of young New Zealanders.

The study revealed that:

  • Kiwi teenagers were twice as likely as adults to be negatively affected by harmful communications online
  • younger teenagers (aged 14 and 15) were at greater risk of harm and were also more likely to say that an unwanted online communication had made it difficult for them to take part in usual daily activities, such as being unable to go to school or study, participate online as usual or eat or sleep properly
  • girls were at a higher risk of being harmed by online communications than boys
  • teenagers with disabilities were more negatively impacted by harmful experiences online than teenagers without impairments
  • teenagers’ experiences of harm online differed by ethnicity, with Māori and Pacific teenagers reporting they were more likely to have received unwanted digital communications in the past 12 months.

To access the Netsafe Kit, click here.(external link) 

Netsafe provides free and confidential advice and support for anyone experiencing online abuse or harm. Call 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) or email

View the NZ teens and digital harm (external link)full report .

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 3:24 pm, 26 October 2018

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