As COVID-19 reached the shores of New Zealand and the country went into Lockdown, Netsafe had a big job ahead. With everyone suddenly working and learning from home, online challenges and risks were inevitable. New Zealand turned to Netsafe for support, resources, tools and education. Read on to find out Netsafe’s online harm insights.

Our free and confidential helpline was inundated with requests from everyday people needing support with a wide range of issues, including online bullying, scams, misinformation, threatening behaviour and hate speech.

It is widely recognised that New Zealand did a fantastic job responding to COVID-19. But the Lockdown period did, unfortunately, create a perfect storm for people experiencing online harm like never before.

As Lockdown restrictions began to ease, Netsafe surveyed a nationwide sample to fully understand the extent of unwanted digital communications during this period.

According to our latest research online harm skyrocketed during lockdownThe number of individuals suffering unwanted digital communications – encouraging people to hurt or kill themselves – increased. This has been supported by Netsafe data which also paints a picture of how Lockdown impacted online harm and drove demand for self-help resources. 

As Aotearoa makes significant progress fighting COVID-19, and with people back at work and school, Netsafe remains available to help seven days a week 

Watch Netsafe’s Online Harm Insights

Watch Netsafe’s senior leadership team explain more about our COVID-19 insights.

Demand for Netsafe’s services

Our data from Lockdown also paints a picture of how Lockdown caused online harm and demand for all of Netsafe’s services to increase. When the Lockdown period was compared to the same time in 2019, it was found scam reports were up 74 percent, sextortion 35 percent, romance scams 69 percent, intimidation 45 percent and the supply and distribution of objectionable material 66 percent.

Netsafe’s COVID-19 Research

Netsafe conducted a nationwide study to understand the prevalence of unwanted digital communications in New Zealand during the nationwide COVID-19 Lockdown.

As the Lockdown got underway, the number of reports about harmful digital communications that Netsafe’s call centre received began to increase, with this trend continuing after the Lockdown period, Netsafe wanted to find out more.

This study explores the experiences of unwanted digital communication in the last 12 months, just before, during, and after Lockdown.

  • Of participants  who reported being a victim to at least one unwanted digital communication during the last year, 41 percent said it occurred during and/or after Lockdown.
  • Males (46 percent), those aged between 40 and 49 (59 percent) and New Zealand Europeans (44 percent), were most likely to have suffered.
  • Around six in ten people with long-term disabilities who received unwanted digital communications, did so during and/or after the Lockdown period.
  • Categories which attracted the largest numbers of online harm during and/or after Lockdown included encouraging people to hurt or kill themselves (65 percent), sharing intimate images or recordings without permission (65 percent), sharing violent or sexual content considered indecent or obscene (55 percent) and offensive comments about religious or political beliefs (54

Download and read Netsafe’s full research report.