A light in the shape of zero social media followers

Emerging online safety issues: co-creating social media education with young people

Understanding safe practices for navigating social media
Our researchers are working alongside young people (aged 12-18) to co-design and produce social media safety videos for Instagram and TikTok.

Ensuring the safety of children and teenagers online has never been more important, with the average Australian aged over 14 spending almost six hours on social media each week

As artificial intelligence, big data and algorithmic technologies develop, so too must our online safety responses.

Dr Justine Humphry, Dr Jonathon Hutchinson and Dr Olga Boichak from the School of  Art, Communication and English are setting out to do just that - by creating a series of online tools in partnership with young people. 

Thanks to grant funding by the eSafety Commissioner, the project will be conducted in collaboration with Youth Action, the peak body representing young people and the services that support them in NSW, and Student Edge, one of the largest member-based student organisations in Australia that specialises in research among young people.

See our Youth Online Safety resources co-created with young people on our website and our social media channels on TikTokInstagram and LinkedIn.

In the Media

Dr Humphry and Enie Lam, co-creator of the #youthonlinesafety resources, discuss how we can keep young people safe on social media on Radio National RN.

We want to promote the positive and safe use of digital technologies with an approach that recognises young people’s right to digital engagement and shared responsibility for online safety.
Dr Justine Humphry
A young woman using a smartphone with social media icons

Image: iStock.

Project details


Qualitative: Focus groups with young people and their parents/carers will allow us to identify patterns and practices of social media use, with particular attention to emerging issues of age verification systems, data profiling and digital disconnection. The focus groups will be carried out via video conference software to ensure safety and equal access from rural areas and will result in a co-designed survey. 


Quantitative: A stratified representative sample of 600 young people and 400 parents or carers across metropolitan and rural areas of NSW, including Indigenous and CALD communities, will complete the co-designed survey, with the goal of illuminating practices and attitudes to emerging social media safety issues at scale. 


Creative: Based on the evidence and findings, and incorporating principles of Safety by Design, we will develop and disseminate a range of social media resources and guides. The resources will be created for and shared via social media, such as Instagram and TikTok. Created with young people, for young people. 


Evaluation: University of Sydney Social Media Communication students will complete the evaluation for this project, as part of their unit of study.

This innovative project is one of 23 supported so far under the three-year $9 million Online Safety Grants Program, administered by the eSafety Commissioner with funding from the Australian Government. 

Banner image: Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash.

Dr Justine Humphry

Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures
View Dr Humphry's Academic profile

Dr Jonathon Hutchinson

Senior Lecturer in Online Media
View Dr Hutchinson's academic profile

Dr Olga Boichak

Lecturer in Digital Cultures
View Dr Boichak's academic profile

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