New service to deal with harmful digital communications

Issue: Volume 95, Number 21

Posted: 21 November 2016
Reference #: 1H9d5U

School leaders or their delegate (with the student’s consent) and whānau will now be able to contact NetSafe to help resolve complaints about harmful digital communications.

The new service is provided under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 which simplifies the process for getting harmful communications removed from the internet and introduces new criminal and civil offences.

The NetSafe service will be available free to all New Zealand schools and their communities. The service includes:

  • reviewing and investigating individual complaints
  • advising on legal implications
  • mediating between the complainant and the instigator
  • referring unresolved complaints to the District Court’s new civil process.

Schools and their communities are increasingly reliant on technology for learning, connecting and sharing. For many teachers, this offers an exciting way to help young people access the curriculum and for schools to explore innovative approaches.

However, it is also clear that this increased use of technology has created a more complex environment which presents challenges for keeping students safe and secure.

Young people are accessing the internet with greater frequency via multiple access points and there is a continuing trend towards mobile devices.

Many schools are already trying to manage issues related to harmful digital communications.

What are harmful digital communications?

Harmful digital communication can take many forms. Whether it is an email with offensive content, or a post on a social media site that attempts to spread rumours or lies about an individual, the common theme that runs through these examples is that they are intended to harm someone.

What does the Act mean for schools?

Boards of Trustees must provide a safe physical and emotional environment in schools/kura. This includes preventing cyberbullying and online harassment.

Under the Act, anyone, including a school representative, can file a complaint to NetSafe on behalf of a young person targeted in an online incident. The affected individual should be a student of that school and must give consent to the proceedings.

It is important that schools are familiar with the new complaints process so they can support students and their families/whānau in the event of an incident.

It is also important to make students aware of potential implications if they are involved with the cyberbullying or online harassment of another person.

For more information, visit the netsafe website(external link) 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 7:42 pm, 21 November 2016

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