While new technologies offer a number of benefits and opportunities, their use is accompanied by challenges and potential risks. This includes the different forms of abuse and intimidation. As part of its functions as the Approved Agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, Netsafe has conducted the first in a series of Annual Population Surveys (APS). The objective of the APS is to gauge attitudes and behaviours and to start monitoring national trends regarding potentially harmful digital communications in New Zealand.
The study provides insights regarding New Zealanders’ access to and use of digital technologies. It also explores people’s level of awareness of the Harmful Digital Communications Act. A key focus of the study is to measure participants’ experiences of digital communications, including perceptions and experiences of harm and distress in the last 12 months. The study also presents relevant insights regarding New Zealanders’ personal responses, and access to services and resources to deal with unwanted digital communications as well as potential harm and distress.
As research on adult New Zealanders and their experiences with digital communications is limited, the APS provides first-hand research evidence on this subject to government agencies, online content and service providers, law enforcement, the research community, and the general public. However, considering the evolving nature of new technologies and how people engage with digital tools, new online challenges and risks are likely to emerge. Thus, the study of the nature and impact of digital communications, including potential harm and distress, will remain a relevant but challenging area of research, analysis, and policy intervention.