Understanding legal risks facing children & young people using social networking sites

David Lindsay, Melissa de Zwart, Michael Henderson, Michael Phillips

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Children and young people are increasingly participating in everyday use of Social Networking Sites (SNS), such as Facebook or MySpace, to the extent that such interactions have come to be seen as an essential part of growing up. To date, at least in Australia, mainstream discussion and policy debates about young people and SNS have tended to focus on high profile risks associated with these activities, such as cyber-bullying and online grooming of children by adults. While not dismissing the potential risks of SNS use by young people, it is important to understand the potential benefits that may accrue from online social interactions, including the acquisition of social and technical skills that are likely to be important for future digital citizens. Moreover, it is also important not to ignore other potential, albeit less dramatic, risks that may arise from SNS use. This article, which reports on research conducted for a project funded by the Victorian Law Foundation, focuses on the range of legal risks that children and young people may face in their everyday use of SNS. These legal risks are likely to receive much greater attention as a result of a recent high-profile case involving the posting of nude photographs of Australian footballers to Facebook by a Melbourne teenager. The article identifies and explains the main areas of the law that may be breached by common uses of SNS, before explaining the legal issues arising from the Melbourne schoolgirl incident. It then summarises the results of surveys and focus groups conducted with Victorian High School students about their perceptions of the risks associated with use of SNS. The article concludes with an analysis of the research findings, and some suggestions as to how the popularity of SNS with young people may be used to engage students in learning about, and debating, the application of the law to online activities, especially the use of SNS. The full findings of the project will be available in a report to be published in early 2011.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Specialist publicationTelecommunications Journal of Australia
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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