Safe searching

Inappropriate and offensive content

What is it?

The internet has provided a new way to share content with a wider audience. However, some of the information may be illegal, inappropriate, offensive or unsuitable for some age groups.

Example of inappropriate content might include pornography, violent or radicalised ideologies or sites advocating criminal and anti-social behaviour. This might also include offensive content such as statements or posts made on social media, chat rooms or blogs that encourage racism or hate.

Some people may deliberately search for inappropriate content, other content may be opened accidentally by typing in an incorrect web address or by clicking on pop-up advertisements or links in emails.

It is crucial children develop digital literacy skills so they can assess the value and accuracy of the content they see.

What can I do?

There are ways you can reduce exposure to inappropriate content and the harm it may cause. Here’s some tips:

  • Discuss safe searching with your child and what to do if they come across something which makes them feel uncomfortable online.
  • Reinforce with your child that illegal activities conducted online can be traced by police and they may be held criminally responsible for their actions if they are over the age of 10.
  • Most social media platforms have minimum age requirements for users – this is generally 13 years old. They rely on the honesty of the user, however, and the appeal of being connected may override the child or young person’s respect for the rules.
  • Explore technical options such as filters, parental controls and safe searching modes, and tell your child why you are using them.
  • Ensure you install and maintain anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your devices.
  • Make sure your child knows who they can talk to if they see something online that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Make sure your children know not to believe everything they read online — a good way to teach them this is to find something online and research it together. Rind out who wrote it, what their intentions may have been and if you can back up the information from another source.
  • Build and maintain strong lines of communication with children about what they are doing online.
  • Know how to report content that you believe is inappropriate or offensive
  • Help children develop effective strategies of saying ‘no’. Some young people may feel pressured by friends to create and share inappropriate content.
  • Set up a Family Online Safety Contract

What if you see something you wish you hadn’t?

Sometimes there are things that you’ll see, which you wish you hadn’t — someone may have mentioned you or tagged you in a social media post, or you may come across websites which may make you feel uncomfortable.

We’ve already outlined the steps you can take to avoid seeing things which you don’t want to, but it’s also important to know what you can do if you see something that offends you.

It seems obvious, but you can close the screen and walk away.

You might also feel like talking to someone about what you have seen.

Consider seeking mental health and wellbeing support services. Make sure your children also have a list of mental health and wellbeing support services which they can access online.

Communication is important. Encourage your child to come to you or a trusted adult if they see something online that makes them feel uncomfortable.

If you have come across content which you believe to be illegal or prohibited, you can report it.

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.