What we SAY online

Young people use technology to communicate with the friends, those with shared interests, or stay in touch with those living far away. Technology is actually one of the main ways they communicate!

Social media, apps, chat and messaging are ways young people communicate online.

They might use direct messaging, instant messaging or chatroom. They may also create images or videos and share these online.

In this section we look at what young people SAY online. 

Instant messaging, direct messaging and chat

The internet makes staying in touch with friends and family easier. Young people might talk to their friends online after school or with those living far away. It means that you can instantly communicate with anyone anywhere in the world.

Instant messaging (IM), direct messaging and chat are messages sent (and received). It might include video chat using a webcam.

Many people don’t realise that games with an internet connection might also have a direct message function. This means that if you don’t change the default privacy settings, anyone might be able to contact you.

Some examples of popular instant messaging and chat apps include:

  • Whatsapp
  • Facebook Chat
  • Skype
  • Kik
  • Viber
  • Facetime

IM apps such as Whatsapp and Kik use are similar to sending a SMS or texting.

A chatroom is a virtual room where people can communicate with others by typing messages which appear instantly to other chatroom users. Users are often anonymous or will have usernames which may or may not identify the person.

Going on cam

Most devices now come with a webcam or built-in camera that means you can ‘chat’ face-to-face.

Skype and Facetime are examples of apps where users can do a video chat. Video calls can also be made through Facebook and your phone using the camera.

Who are you really talking to…?

Online grooming and stalking are some of the things that parents and carers of young people need to be aware of that can occur on these services.

As with any environment that enables people to communicate with one another, there are always risks around verifying who you are speaking to. An open online environment such as a public chatroom means that anyone can participate in a conversation.

Some apps with chat features don’t require identification to sign in so people can use fake names or ages to start an account.

Users of IM apps and online chat rooms can inadvertently disclose personal information, even through something as simple as a user name.

Do you know what they SAY online?

Young people may use slang or abbreviations when chatting online. We suggest familiarising yourself with the most commonly used terms.

Top tips!

  • Talk to your child about the chat apps and sites they may be using and become familiar with them yourself
  • We also encourage parents to be aware of their child’s use of chatrooms
  • Know who is on your child’s contact list
  • Ensure secure privacy settings are enabled on all accounts
  • Cover your webcam when not using it
  • Check your child’s username doesn’t expose details about them (such as their age or location)
  • Keep computers and devices in central rooms in the house
  • Be aware of how to block and report users

Content creating and sharing

Creating and sharing content is one of the most popular activities for young people online.

This mostly includes photos and videos, however personal information, comments and even locations can also be considered online ‘content’.

See our social media section in What we DO Online for more ways young people might create or share content.

Many people don’t realise what they post online could impact their reputation in the future.

What content are you creating?

Some people see social media as an anonymous space where you can say what you like so they use it as a way of abusing other people. Remembering to always treat yourself and other people with respect is the best way to avoid posting content that you may later regret.

Everything online could be permanent.

Some images that should never be shared online include sexualised photos, images of breaking the law (e.g. vandalism) or behaving in an inappropriate or offensive way. 

Some people can try to persuade others to post inappropriate or sexual content online either via your phone or using a webcam. If you feel uncomfortable about anything that anyone asks you to do online, in a chat area, in instant messaging, social networking site or elsewhere – block them and then report it. It is really important you remind your children of this. We don’t have to do anything we don’t want to – even if you have done it before.

Why is it important?

Once something goes online, you have very little chance of deleting it. It could remain out there in five different ways:

  1. Copied – it’s not that difficult for someone copy an image. Once they have their own copy, even if you delete the original version, it may still be accessible to others.
  2. Forwarded – if you allow someone to access your content, you can’t control who they share it with and they may forward your material onto others who don’t have your best interests at heart.
  3. Posted elsewhere – if someone can copy or forward or content, they can also post it elsewhere online, perhaps a very public website. The same goes for emails, private messages and texts – you may share them with one person but they could always post them elsewhere.
  4. Saved – you may not realise that someone has saved your content until they decide to use it against you. Someone could have saved your content on their device or even made a hard copy, and are waiting for an opportunity to share it with others.
  5. Cached – caching is a form of archiving which search engines like Google and Bing do where they take a snapshot of what a web page looks like at a given point in time and stores this in an area of the internet which others can search.

Many employers, universities and sporting groups will search for applicants or potential members online before giving them a job or contract.

What about ‘tagging’?

Tagging is when a user or profile is linked to content such as a photo or comment so that it can be viewed on their profile. 

Some programs will ask for you to give permission before you are ‘tagged’ in something, a privacy setting we strongly encourage you to apply.

Top tips!

  • Think before you post – take two seconds to pause and reflect on what you’re posting and how it could affect you and others, now and into the future. Chat to your children about this – ask them what they are telling the world with each image they post.
  • Try to remove any content that you think may damage your reputation
  • Consider searching and reviewing any pages or groups you ‘like’ or ‘follow’. These can say a lot about you.
  • Search your ‘digital shadow’ online. What does your digital shadow say about you?

What we do

We develop resources and advice for parents, carers and educators, children and young people to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

Led by the Australian Federal Police, our program includes:

  • Presentations for schools and community groups
  • Online learning resources
  • Activities to do at home
  • Fact sheets and guides
  • Educators resources


What we don’t do

Our program doesn’t cover:

  • Information about general online safety, including cyberbullying
  • Information about cybercrime

For information about online safety visit the eSafety Commissioner

For information about cybercrime visit ReportCyber

Our partners

ThinkUKnow Australia is a partnership between the Australian Federal Police, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Datacom and Microsoft Australia, and delivered in partnership with all State and Territory police and Neighbourhood Watch Australasia.

© Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of country throughout Australia and acknowledges their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to the people, the cultures and the elders past, present and emerging.