Understanding online peer support

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While young people often reach out to their parents when things go wrong online, there is another group we know they turn to when something is awry – their peers. Find out when they turn to peer support and what that might mean for your family.


Peers play a big role in influencing the decisions and actions of young people, and they can have a significant effect on their emotional health and wellbeing 

Young people often relate better  to people their own age and feel they can easily access advice and information without fearing judgement or punishment. Observing the positive behaviours of people their own age can often motivate and encourage young people to follow suit which is why many schools have adopted peer support and leadership programs – even Netsafe has a Youth Action Squad to empower young people. 

Recognising the important role peers play in your child’s life (offline and online) is essential in helping them navigate the internet safely and confidently. 


Some  of the ways you can support your child to have healthy peer relationships while also ensuring they have more positive online experiences includes: 

  1. Reading through the seven steps of Netsafe’s Online Safety Parent Toolkit so you can teach your child how to access digital opportunities and reduce harm.
  2. Letting your child know that if theyre ever unsure about information or advice they’ve received from their peers they can always come to you or access services like Netsafe.
  3. Encouraging your child to take advantage of peer support groups at their school by either joining or seeking support when needed. Normally students are trained to respond to the challenges young people encounter.  
  4. Developing a Family Safe Online Treaty outlining when they should reach out to you, a trusted adult or support service for added support. We’ve listed some of the different  support services available and recommend looking for other relevant ones together. 
  5. Reinforcing positive online behaviour and try to motivate their friends to do the same.  


Peer relationships can sometimes turn sour. This may lead to incidents of exclusion, bullying or negative peer pressure. When these issues occur online it can be difficult for parents or teachers to see and support young peopleTeaching your child how to recognise and report inappropriate or upsetting interactions with their peers online cahelp 

If you or your child feels that they are being harmed online, encourage them to: 

  • Reach out: Talk to someone that they feel they can trust. This could be a close friend, a parent, other family members or even a teacher. If they’d rather talk to someone else, they can contact  Netsafe  or  Youthline  for support. 
  • Keep evidence: Save texts and emails and take screenshots of anything that might disappear later. Make sure they keep track of dates, what has happened, who they think did it and why. 
  • Report it: Block or report the bully online. Most social networks have safety centres with tips on how to deal with bullying on the platforms. Here are some handy links: 

Facebook • Snapchat  • Instagram   •YouTube  • Twitter 


You’re currently within the ‘Plan’ section of our Online Safety Parent Toolkit where we encourage families to work out what to do if things go wrong and where to seek help.

This is the final step in our seven-step framework designed to help parents and whānau with digital parenting in a rapidly changing world.  We recommend reading through each step of the Toolkit as this will guide you on how to support your child to confidently access digital opportunities and reduce online harm.


If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you want help or expert incident advice, you can contact us. Our service is free, non-judgemental and available seven days a week.


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