Education, Response, Advocacy | The evolution of online safety services

Online safety organisations set up in the late 1990s and early 2000’s were primarily tasked with online safety education. The aim was to make people aware of the ‘dangers’ so that they could be avoided. It soon became clear that it was not possible to both participate fully online and avoid danger.

Preventative education remains an important component of the response to online safety challenges. However, even when resourced appropriately, an education-based strategy will not be entirely effective. There are some harms that cannot be prevented just by increasing an internet user’s skills and knowledge. NetSafe’s operational experience shows that problems can result from risk-taking behaviour, an error of judgment or being targeted regardless of the safety and security precautions they have taken.

Increasingly, people experiencing negative incidents sought out agencies that could provide more specific advice and services to assist them. The evolving and increasingly complex nature of many digital challenges meant that traditional support and enforcement services were increasingly unable to provide assistance.

Internationally, online safety agencies providing a particular blend of services were increasingly being sought out because of the deep specialist knowledge that they were developing. This includes an understanding of the digital challenges, how to tackle them and who to work with to achieve this.

Essentially, the work of online safety organisation like NetSafe now takes place at the intersection of the ‘3Cs’ to provide services across three broad areas:

  • Education – Independent, quality advice and guidance to individuals and public, NGOs and commercial sectors. Support other organisations to develop educational resources, response services and other interventions.
  • Response – Direct assistance in response to incident reports. Facilitate access to a range of support mechanisms. Work across sectors to strengthen the overall reporting processes available to New Zealanders.
  • Advocacy – Expert knowledge grounded in both research and real world experience. Advocate on behalf of the community’s safety and security needs to see that these are reflected in legislative or government policy changes and provide specialist expert knowledge to policy makers.

Now, NetSafe directly supports consumers, families, schools and businesses as they navigate through a range of online ‘digital challenges’ – financial, technical and emotional. It helps them to reduce their exposure to risk or to minimise harm when things go wrong.