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Cyberspace can be awful and crime-ridden but there is help

First-ever Online Safety Week from today (July 26, 2021)

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

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Auckland, July 26, 2021

The community is experiencing harm online at rates never seen before.

Netsafe, New Zealand’s online safety organisation, can reveal a 24% increase in harmful digital communication reports compared to the same time frame the previous year.

Netsafe Chief Executive Martin Cocker said that the Company’s experience is reflective of the wider online safety and security community.

“Personal experiences of harmful digital communications are on the rise, losses to cybercrime and scams continue to mount, and surging levels of misinformation are undermining trust across society,” he said.

That is why Netsafe is hosting New Zealand’s first-ever online safety week.

Relevant to all New Zealanders

Netsafety Week runs from July 26 to July 30, 2021, aiming to give everybody the chance to join in and help Make Aotearoa Safer Online.

“The blurred line between our online and offline lives is nearly erased, with the internet becoming crucial to the way we work, learn, and live. This makes online safety relevant to everybody. This is reflected by the many schools, businesses, government agencies and charities that have signed up to mobilise and spread online safety messages. Principal sponsors include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. Dozens of iconic brands, including Whittaker’s, What Now, RocketWerkz and Deaf Aotearoa have joined forces as supporters,” Mr Cocker said.

Netsafe has been helping keep people safe online for more than 20 years.

Service to communities

Since November 2016, it has provided a service under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, supporting more than 14,000 people dealing with severe or repeated events, such as bullying, hate speech, race-based abuse, image-based sexual abuse, and harassment in formats including text, email and social media.

Since this time, Netsafe has received more than 120,000 reports from people looking for assistance on every possible online challenge imaginable. It has assisted people who have lost over $90 million due to online scams and fraud.

Misconceptions abound

Misconceptions that online safety is an issue for the very young or very old are debunked by Netsafe reporting statistics which show people aged between 22-40 make up 37% of reports in the past year.

Mr Cocker said that there is an increase in the number of people approaching Netsafe after experiencing harm to their digital communications. But their experience falls narrowly outside the provisions of the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

“Our team works hard to find solutions and provide advice for any person harmed online but it is important to recognise the gaps in the system today and how complex the online environment is. It is clear more needs to be done to develop safety technology, regulation, and education and Netsafe is committed to playing our part,” he said.

Investment in positive change

As hosts of Netsafety Week, Netsafe has invested in new resources and events to inspire positive change and share advice to help the community have better experiences. Scams, digital parenting, bullying and hate speech are just some of the Week’s key tenons.

Educators will roll out online safety lessons in schools in classrooms across New Zealand.

Netsafe will also launch a toolkit for whanau to help support young people online gaming.

Mr Cocker said that the Safety Week is an opportunity for Netsafe to work together to let people know about the self-help options available and how they can get support if they are having a problem.

“Winter is typically a time more people are inside and online, and we saw this as an opportune time to launch Netsafety Week. We know there are many fantastic resources organisations available to help, and we want to shine a light on them,” he said.

About Netsafe

Netsafe is an independent non-profit organisation with an unrelenting focus on online safety.

The Company keeps people of all ages safe online by providing free support, advice, and education. For more information, please call 0508 Netsafe. Website: www.netsafe.org.nz

About Netsafety Week

Netsafety Week runs from July 26 to July 30, 2021. This is the first time that New Zealand has held its online safety week, and it is designed to Make Aotearoa Safer Online. Netsafety Week is coordinated by Netsafe to inspire positive change and share advice to help the community stay safe online. This is important as Netsafe research shows one in five teenagers and one in 10 adults were harmed by something they experienced online in the previous year. In many cases, teens and adults reported being unable to eat or sleep or go to school or withdrawing from their usual daily activities.

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