A voice for young people on online safety

In an Australian first, the Morrison Government will establish an Online Safety Youth Advisory Council as a next step in its plan to make the online world safer and hold the social media giants to account.

The Council will be made up of up to 20 young Australians, aged between 13 to 24 years, who will be drawn from a wide range of backgrounds to provide a direct voice to Government on the challenges and solutions to online safety issues that impact young people.

The eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, will coordinate the Council, with the nomination and selection process to commence in early 2022. 

The members will participate in a range of forums examining online safety issues such as bullying and harassment, mental health, privacy, the impact of algorithms and unwanted contact from strangers, and will report to Government with recommendations for further action that can be taken by all players, including industry, government and regulators like eSafety.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Online Safety Youth Advisory Council would provide young Australians with a voice in the development of online safety policy.

“Young people know better than anyone about the good, the bad and the plain ugly that exists in the online world,” the Prime Minister said. “They are the first generation of Australians to grow up living simultaneously in both the real and digital worlds, and they are always at the forefront of new technologies.

“This is something that so many parents, and indeed decision makers, don’t always understand, because we haven’t lived this experience like they have. This is why there is no one better placed to tell us what needs to change and how, than this generation of young Australians.

“This is the next step my Government is taking to keep Australians, especially young Australians, safe online. The rules that exist in real life, must apply in the online world too. We will hold big tech and social media giants to account.”

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the Council would be made up of young Australians from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances to provide a representative voice to the Government.

“Since we began the work that led to the establishment of the pioneering eSafety Commissioner in 2015, we have listened closely to parents, carers, teachers – and young people,” Minister Fletcher said.

“Since 2015, eSafety has been able to help 3,391 children and their families with cyberbullying complaints. The Online Safety Youth Advisory Council will enable us to continue to draw upon the lived experience of our youth, to help develop policy and make the internet a safer place for all Australians.”

Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services Luke Howarth said it is important to listen and engage with young people and continue the work of the recently launched Youth Policy Framework, where young people have a greater say in what matters to them most and can speak directly to decision-makers on the issues that affect them.

“The Online Safety Youth Advisory Council is an opportunity to hear from young people on how they can keep themselves and their mates safe online,” Assistant Minister Howarth said.

The establishment of the Youth Advisory Council follows the Government’s recent announcement of a parliamentary inquiry to put big tech under the microscope, the passage of new and strengthened protections for Australians through the Online Safety Act 2021, and the release of the draft Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill.

The nomination and selection process for the Youth Advisory Council will be announced in early 2022 and will be coordinated by the eSafety Commissioner.