Understanding image-based abuse
What you need to know
Image-based abuse occurs when intimate, nude or sexual images are shared without the consent of those depicted, or a threat to share the content is made.
If your child is involved in image based abuse, they may not realise the seriousness of the situation, or that they’re breaking the law by sharing someone else’s sexual content with others.
There are serious implications for storing and sharing sexual content of those under the age of 18, which is also considered to be child abuse material.
In talking to your child about this topic, you can draw on current learnings at school about respectful relationships. They should be aware that these concepts apply to interactions they have with others online as well.
We encourage children and young people to apply critical thinking and to think before sharing anything online to ensure the safety and wellbeing of not only themselves, but those they interact with.
Advice for parents and carers
What can I do?
- Encourage your child to start thinking about why they might be sharing content. For example, why would they share or forward something?
- Remind your child they always have the right to feel safe and to say ‘ no’ to anything that makes them uncomfortable
- Have open discussions if your child comes to you for help.
You can help to set a foundation for respectful online interactions.
While your child may not be likely to be participating in non-consensual image sharing, learning to apply empathy and critical reasoning can get them thinking about the type of content they’re sending and the consequences of their actions.
At this age, your child should be aware of others’ feelings if any type of content about them is shared, even if it’s meant to be a joke. For example, will the images they share upset or embarrass someone? Will the person who it’s about find it funny?
They should also start to become aware that once they send and image or video to someone, it can be hard to know who else might see it or where it could end up.
Have age-appropriate conversations around harmful or illegal content in case your child comes across this type of content and knows to seek help from you or a trusted adult.
What can I do?
- If your child receives a personal sexual image from someone, they should delete it straight away and not share or store it
- If your child is or has been a victim of image-based abuse, reassure them that it’s is not their fault and that there is help available
- While image-based abuse can be complex, be open and non-judgemental if your child comes to you for help. If you react negatively they might avoid coming to you for help with future issues.
A key focus of our program is preventing young people from breaking the law and sharing illegal content.
They need to think about the role they play in a distribution network and that everyone has a part to play in either preventing or contributing to image-based abuse.
Sharing sexualised content of another person has serious legal consequences, and if the person pictured is under the age of 18, it can also be considered sharing child abuse material.
Your child should be aware that if they receive sexualised content from another young person, they need to delete it and not share it on to others. It’s also against the law to store or possess this material which is considered child sexual exploitation.
If you have an older child they may be using technology to explore their identity or to manage their relationships.
If your child is a victim of image-based abuse, or their sexual content has been shared with others without their permission, you need to take quick action to prevent further harm. These situations can be complex and your child needs your support.
Remind your child that nothing is so bad they can’t tell someone about it and there’s always help available, no matter how bad the situation is.
The eSafety Commissioner has established a portal to provide assistance to Australians impacted by image-based abuse, including help with removing image-based abuse content online.
Our support page has further information on counselling and wellbeing services.