Skip to main content

Age group 12 to 17 years

Safe in the community

Feeling safe and secure is a critical foundation for young people’s healthy development. Feeling safe in their neighbourhood and other communities or groups is essential for young people to develop their independence, engage in physical activity outside their home and build positive relationships with other adults and peers.1,2

Young people who feel unsafe in their community are more likely to experience negative long-term outcomes including anxiety-related disorders, alcohol and drug misuse and behavioural difficulties.3,4

Overview and areas of concern

Some data is available on whether WA young people aged 12 to 17 years feel or are safe in their community.

Data overview

This indicator intends to collect data on whether WA young people feel safe in their communities and how many WA young people have experienced violence or abuse in their community, including negative online experiences.

There is limited data on the experiences of WA young people aged 12 to 17 years of feeling and being safe in their community.

Areas of concern

Almost one-half (46.6%) of Australian young women aged 15 to 19 years feel unsafe or very unsafe walking alone after dark in their community. No WA data is available.

WA young women aged 15 to 19 years are nine times more likely than WA male young people in that age group to be reported as victims of sexual assault.

No data exists on the proportion of WA young people aged 12 to 17 years who have had negative online experiences or experienced cyberbullying.

Other measures

Young people are also at risk of accidental injury and death. While children from 0 to five years are at the highest risk of injury and poisoning, young people aged 12 to 17 years also have a high rate of injuries.1 A measure on child deaths or injuries has not been selected for the Indicators of wellbeing as data is regularly compiled by Kidsafe WA and the WA Ombudsmen.

For information on child deaths refer to the Ombudsmen’s annual Child Death Review. For information on injuries for children refer to Kidsafe WA Childhood Injury Bulletins & Reports.

Endnotes

  1. Sherlock E et al 2018, Kidsafe WA Childhood Injury Bulletin: Annual Report 2017-2018, Kidsafe WA (AUS).
Measure: Feeling safe in the community

Communities have a significant influence on young people’s lives. Safe and cohesive communities can improve young people’s safety and help children thrive.1,2

Healthy communities promote positive connections between families and young people through social and recreational resources that improve social cohesion, encourage physical activity and build relationships between adults and young people.3 If young people do not feel safe in their communities this can lead to difficulties forming positive and trusting relationships, mental health issues and behavioural problems.4,5

How community is defined is not clear-cut; community often refers to the local neighbourhood, however, it can also include online communities, faith-based communities, sporting or activity-based communities and school communities. Adult perceptions of whether communities feel safe and supportive may not reflect those of the young people in that community.6

Research asking young people aged over 12 years about their experiences in their communities is limited.

In the annual Mission Australia 2019 Youth Survey, 25,126 Australian young people aged 15 to 19 years responded to questions across a broad range of topics including education and employment, participation in community activities, general wellbeing, values and concerns and preferred sources of support.

The 2019 sample included 2,766 young people from WA.7 One-half of WA respondents (50.3%) were male and 45.8 per cent were female and 5.9 per cent of WA respondents identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.8

Mission Australia recommend caution when interpreting and generalising the results for certain states or territories because of the small sample sizes and the imbalance between the number of young females and males participating in the survey.

In this survey, respondents were asked to rate how concerned they were about a number of issues. Almost one-fifth (18.7%) of WA respondents were extremely or very concerned about personal safety.9 This was consistent with the result for all Australian young people (17.8%).

Proportion of WA young people concerned or not concerned about personal safety, in per cent, WA and Australia, 2019

WA

Australia

Not at all concerned

44.8

44.5

Slightly concerned

19.1

20.0

Somewhat concerned

17.4

17.8

Very concerned

10.4

10.6

Extremely concerned

8.3

7.2

Source: Mission Australia, Youth Survey Report 2019

There were significant differences between how male and female young people feel about safety. While 51.7 per cent of WA male respondents were not at all concerned about personal safety, only 37.4 per cent of WA female respondents said the same.

Proportion of WA young people concerned or not concerned about personal safety by gender, in per cent, WA, 2019

Male

Female

Not at all concerned

51.7

37.4

Slightly concerned

19.5

19.5

Somewhat concerned

15.8

18.9

Very concerned

7.4

13.8

Extremely concerned

5.5

10.4

Source: Mission Australia, Youth Survey Report 2019

Proportion of WA young people concerned or not concerned about personal safety by gender, in per cent, WA, 2019

Source: Mission Australia, Youth Survey Report 2019

The Mission Australia report Gender gaps: Findings from the Youth Survey 2018 states that Australian young women aged 15 to 19 years are less likely than young men to trust people in their local area (35.0% compared to 42.1%). It also reports that more than double the proportion of female young people feel unsafe or very unsafe walking alone after dark in their community (46.6% of female young people compared to 18.1% of male young people).10

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) regularly conducts the Personal Safety Survey (PSS) which collects information from men and women aged 18 years and over about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15 years.

Respondents to the PSS were asked about whether they feel safe in their community. Consistent with the Mission Australia results for young people, WA female respondents (aged 18 years and over) were much more likely to feel unsafe in their local community than male respondents.

Proportion of adults feeling safe/unsafe alone after dark in the last 12 months by gender, in per cent, WA, 2016

Male

Female

Used public transport and felt safe

31.5

14.2

Did not use public transport because felt unsafe

1.7

19.3

Walked alone and felt safe

58.3

27.5

Did not walk alone because felt unsafe

3.8

27.7

Source: ABS, Personal Safety Survey: 2016, Table 5.1 – Feelings of General Safety in the last 12 months – WA

Notes: Waited for public transport alone after dark in the 12 months prior to the survey. Public transport includes buses, trains, trams, taxis, and ferries.

Proportion of adults feeling safe/unsafe alone after dark in the last 12 months by gender, in per cent, WA, 2016

Source: ABS, Personal Safety Survey: 2016, Table 5.1 – Feelings of General Safety in the last 12 months – WA

While only 3.8 per cent of WA men did not walk alone at night because they felt unsafe, 27.7 per cent of WA women did not walk alone at night because they felt unsafe.

Data from the ABS 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) records feelings of safety and neighbourhood problems for Aboriginal peoples across Australia. In this survey, 70.2 per cent of male Aboriginal young people aged 15 to 24 years feel safe or very safe when walking alone in the local area after dark, while only 34.6 per cent of female Aboriginal young people aged 15 to 24 years feel safe or very safe under these circumstances.11 The NATSISS survey does not provide jurisdictional level data and no data on children and young people’s experiences of violence.12

These results highlight that female young people are more likely to feel unable to do all the activities that male young people do, therefore they are less likely to be able to access the same opportunities as their male peers.13 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)14 young people are also at an increased risk of feeling unsafe in their community. Survey research in 2010 has reported that a large proportion (35.0%) of Australian LGBTI young people described receiving verbal and physical abuse in the street, although this had reduced from prior years’ studies (47.0% in 2004 and 45.0% in 1998).15

Institutions also form part of the community and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) has highlighted that many institutions have failed to protect children and young people.

The Royal Commission has highlighted that children and young people are highly vulnerable to abuse perpetrated by a wide range of people associated with institutions, including staff, professionals, families, carers and other children. Furthermore, some children and young people are more vulnerable than others, such as those with disability, those in residential settings and those who have previously been abused.

The Institute of Child Protection Studies was commissioned by the Royal Commission to develop an understanding of how children and young people perceive safety and consider it within institutional contexts.16 An online survey was completed by 1,480 Australian children and young people aged 10 to 18 years.17 The following were key findings:18

  • The most influential characteristic in determining how safe children and young people felt within an institution was whether adults pay attention when a child or young person raised a concern or worry.
  • If children and young people encounter an unsafe adult or peer they need another adult to believe them when they raised their concern and to step in and take control.
  • The most significant barrier to seeking support at school was feeling uncomfortable talking to adults about sensitive issues.

In the Commissioner’s Speaking Out Survey, WA children and young people aged eight to 17 years were asked questions about feeling safe in the community. Results from the study will be published in 2020.

Endnotes

  1. Child Family Community Australia and NAPCAN 2016, Stronger Communities, Safer Children: Findings from recent Australian research on the importance of community in keeping children safe, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  2. Eastman C et al 2014, Thriving in Adversity: A positive deviance study of safe communities for children (SPRC Report 30/2014), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Kersten L et al 2017, Community Violence Exposure and Conduct Problems in Children and Adolescents with Conduct Disorder and Healthy Controls, frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience, Vol 11.
  6. Child Family Community Australia and NAPCAN 2016, Stronger Communities, Safer Children: Findings from recent Australian research on the importance of community in keeping children safe, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  7. Carlisle E et al 2019, Youth Survey Report 2019, Mission Australia, p. 192.
  8. Ibid, p. 192.
  9. Ibid, p. 202.
  10. Hall S et al 2019, Gender gaps: Findings from the Youth Survey 2018, Mission Australia, p. 20.
  11. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15, Table 15.3 Safety, law and justice, by sex, age and remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 15 years and over — 2014–15, Proportion of persons, ABS.
  12. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15, ABS.
  13. Hall S et al 2019, Gender gaps: Findings from the Youth Survey 2018, Mission Australia, p. 4.
  14. The Commissioner for Children and Young People understands there are a range of terms and definitions that people use to define their gender or sexuality. The Commissioner’s office will use the broad term LGBTI to inclusively refer to all people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex, as well as to represent other members of the community that use different terms to describe their diverse sexuality and/or gender.
  15. Hillier L et al 2010, Writing Themselves in 3: The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, p. 46.
  16. Moore T et al 2016, Our safety counts: Children and young people’s perceptions of safety and institutional responses to their safety concerns, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University.
  17. The survey was not designed to be representative, however, provides an indication of what children and young people need to feel safe in institutions.
  18. Moore T et al 2016, Our safety counts: Children and young people’s perceptions of safety and institutional responses to their safety concerns, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, p. 8-9.
Measure: Negative online experiences

This measure reports on negative online experiences and is included within this indicator recognising that young people can increasingly access the internet and social media at any time and place.

The vast majority of Australian families have access to the internet, with 97.1 per cent of households with children under the age of 15 reporting having an internet connection at home.1

In 2013, the Australian Communications and Media Authority conducted an online survey to explore children and young people’s use of social networking services.2 This survey found that 67.0 per cent of 12 to 13 year-olds, 87.0 per cent of 14 to 15 year-olds, and 94.0 per cent of 16 to 17 year-olds had a mobile phone.3 With technology use accelerating each year, it is likely the proportion of young people with access to a mobile phone or other device has increased since this study was conducted.

The 2013 online survey also reported that 88.0 per cent of young people aged 12 to 13 years and close to 100.0 per cent of young people aged 14 to 17 years used social networking services.4 Furthermore, 71.0 per cent of Australian young people aged 16 to 17 years used social networking services on a daily basis.

Young people’s frequency of social networking services usage, in per cent, Australia, 2012

12 to 13 years

14 to 15 years

16 to 17 years

Used social networking services

88.0

97.0

99.0

Used social networking services daily

36.0

62.0

71.0

Source: Australian Communications and Media Authority, Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media, 4.2 Use of Social Networking Sites

Most young people are more connected to technology than ever before and while this presents them with valuable opportunities for developing a sense of social connection and belonging, it also makes young people more vulnerable to having negative online experiences. Negative online experiences can include unwanted contact from strangers, being sent unwanted material such as sexual material and exclusion from social groups as well as bullying.

Limited data exists on the proportion of WA young people aged 12 to 17 years who have had negative online experiences.

Negative experiences including cyberbullying can significantly affect a young person’s mental health and wellbeing.5,6,7 Cyberbullying can lead to significant mental health issues, including anxiety, stress and depression as well as substance abuse and in extreme cases, suicidal idealisation and actualisation.8,9 Australian research has found that mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, were more prevalent for young people who reported that they had been cyberbullied compared to those who had been bullied offline.10

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner conducted research with Australian children and young people about their online experiences. The 2017 survey comprised a random sample of approximately 3,000 children and young people aged eight to 17 years collected over a 12-month period to June 2017.11 Results were disaggregated into two age groups, eight to 12 years and 13 to 17 years.12

The study found that high proportions of Australian young people were exposed to a wide range of negative online experiences. For instance, 42.0 per cent of 13 to 17 year-old respondents said they had received unwanted contact and content and 26.0 per cent said they experienced social exclusion and threats and abuse.13

Proportion of children and young people having negative online experiences by category and age group, in per cent, Australia, 2017

8 to 12 years

13 to 17 years

Unwanted contact and content

24.0

42.0

Social exclusion

17.0

26.0

Threats and abuse

15.0

26.0

Damage to reputation and impersonation*

12.0

25.0

Fraud and viruses

14.0

12.0

Lack of consent**

5.0

11.0

Source: Office of the eSafety Commissioner, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers

* Damage to reputation and impersonation including having lies and rumours spread about them or having inappropriate photographs posted of themselves without their consent

** Lack of consent included having personal information accessed or posted without agreement.

Proportion of children and young people having negative online experiences by category and age, in per cent, Australia, 2017

Source: Office of the eSafety Commissioner, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers

A greater proportion of young people aged 12 to 17 years have negative online experiences than younger children. This aligns with the period when young people may begin to have their own phones and are using social media on a daily basis.

While proportions were relatively high for both male and female respondents, the survey found some differences between genders.

Proportion of children and young people aged 8 to 17 years having negative online experiences by category and gender, in per cent, Australia, 2017

Male

Female

Unwanted contact and content

30.0

35.0

Social exclusion

19.0

24.0

Threats and abuse

19.0

22.0

Damage to reputation and impersonation

17.0

20.0

Fraud and viruses

16.0

11.0

Lack of consent

8.0

8.0

Source: Office of the eSafety Commissioner, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers

Female users were more likely to report all types of negative experiences with the exception of fraud and viruses. Unwanted contact and content was the most common experience for both genders followed by social exclusion (unwanted contact and content: 35.0% female compared to 30.0% male, social exclusion: 24.0% female compared to 19.0% male).

Negative online experiences are varied and can often, although not always, involve a form of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has been defined as ‘an aggressive act involving the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour by an individual or group which is intended to harm others’.14 Unwanted contact and exposure to viruses and fraud would generally not be classified as bullying, however, could be experienced as part of a bullying pattern.

Many researchers suggest that cyberbullying is a sub-set of traditional bullying rather than a new form on its own.15,16 However, there are some key differences. A unique feature of cyberbullying is the ability for the perpetrator to remain anonymous and to bully large numbers of people relatively effortlessly without a need to be physically close to them.17 For children and young people, cyberbullying can also be particularly fraught as it can happen when victims are alone, with less ability for teachers or parents to identify that it is occurring.

Evidence also suggests that young people can find it difficult to distinguish between harmless banter and bullying.18,19 This makes it more challenging for young people experiencing bullying to report the behaviour and for those perpetrating bullying to understand where the line was crossed.

Measuring the prevalence of cyberbullying is challenging as different definitions and methodologies limit the ability to compare cohorts and determine trends over time.20

A 2014 research synthesis by the Social Policy Research Centre estimated that approximately 20.0 per cent of 8 to 17 year-olds in Australia have been cyberbullied (around 463,000 young people) and that the majority of victims are in the 10 to 15 year age group (around 365,000 young people). The authors note that the estimates could range from 100,000 less to around 200,000 more, depending on the definition of cyberbullying and other assumptions made when extrapolating from survey samples.21

Recent research also used the results of multiple bullying studies to conclude that cyber-bullying in Australia is less common than traditional bullying with approximately 7.0 per cent of children and young people reporting experiences of cyberbullying and 3.5 per cent having perpetrated cyberbullying.22

Evidence also suggests that there is an overlap between the children and young people who experience physical bullying and cyberbullying, and those who perpetrate physical bullying and cyberbullying.23

While sexting is not necessarily a negative online experience, it can have significant negative outcomes. Sexting is not specifically discussed in the eSafety Commissioner’s report, however, experiences of images being shared without consent are included in the ‘damage to reputation’ category.24

Sexting involves the sharing of sexually explicit self-generated images, videos or messages through electronic means and can be consensual.25 It should be noted that research suggests that ‘sexting’ is not a term commonly used by young people – they would more likely call it ‘nudes’ or ‘dick pics’ or an alternate.26

In the Youth Digital Participation survey conducted by the eSafety Commissioner, nearly one in three Australian young people aged 14 to 17 years reported that they had experiences of sending, sharing or being asked to share nudes images or videos.27 Young people who had these types of experiences were three times more likely to be asked for a nude or nearly nude image or video of themselves (15.0%) than to send an image or video (5.0%). Female young people were almost three times as likely as male young people to have been asked this (22.0% female compared to 8.0% male).28

Research shows that the risks associated with sexting are generally borne by female young people.29,30 These risks include having an image shared without the owner’s consent, feeling humiliated and depressed, and experiencing stalking or threatening behaviour.31

For more information on sexting and image-based abuse refer to the eSafety Commissioner’s reports:

Office of the eSafety Commissioner et al 2017, Young people and sexting – Attitudes and Behaviours: Research findings from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Office of the eSafety Commissioner et al 2017, Image-based Abuse – National Survey Summary Report, Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Findings from the eSafety Commissioner’s surveys suggest that children and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and children and young people with disability fall into this category, as they are more likely to make contact with a stranger and make friends online.32

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)33 children and young people are also at an increased risk of having negative online experiences, particularly cyberbullying.34 US-based research of LGBTI young people aged 13 to 18 years, found that LGBTI young people were nearly three times as likely as non-LGBTI young people to say they had been bullied or harassed online (42.0% compared to 15.0%) and twice as likely to say they had been bullied via text message (27.0% compared to 13.0%).35

In 2010, 61.0 per cent of Australian LGBTI young people (aged 14 to 21 years) reported verbal abuse because of homophobia, 18.0 per cent physical abuse and 26.0 per cent reported ‘other’ forms of homophobia, including cyberbullying.36

There is also evidence that Aboriginal children and young people, particularly students and those living in remote areas, may be at higher risk of being cyber-bullied compared to non-Aboriginal children and young people.37 More specifically, Aboriginal children and young people can use technology in culturally specific ways and these cultural differences can change experiences of negative online experiences.38

More research is needed on Aboriginal children and young people’s use and experiences of technology.

Negative online experiences affect children and young people in a range of ways. In the eSafety Commissioner’s survey, almost two-thirds (63.0%) of respondents aged eight to 17 years reflected negatively on what happened to them. Survey participants noted that they did not feel good about themselves, felt left out and lost some of their friends. Young people were more likely to reflect negatively on their experiences than children (69.0% of 13 to 17 year-olds compared to 55.0% of 8 to 12 year-olds).39

To cope with these experiences, children and young people undertook a range of actions. The majority of eight to 17 year-olds (71.0%) sought help through informal networks, telling their parents, family and friends. Just over one-half (51.0%) employed their own self-help strategies, for example changing passwords, closing social media accounts, confronting the bully or researching solutions online. A smaller proportion (24.0%) utilised formal avenues, reporting the incident to the police, their school or the social media company. These results are not broken down further by age.40

In dealing with these experiences, many children and young people also reported gaining positive outcomes from having negative online experiences, with 65.0 per cent of eight to 17 year-olds being able to able to interpret what had happened in a positive way. This included becoming more aware of online risks (40.0%), knowing who their ‘real’ friends were (33.0%), learning to use the internet in a more balanced way (23.0%) and developing a greater understanding of their online behaviour (19.0%).41

Young people had a greater ability than children to interpret their negative experience in a positive way (70.0% of 13 to 17 year-olds compared to 58.0% of 8 to 12 year-olds).

Parents play a significant role in ensuring their children are safe online and in supporting positive online behaviours; mitigating risk, providing guidance and advice and ‘policing’ internet use. While parents of young people aged 12 to 17 years have less supervisory control than parents of younger children, their guidance and support are critical.

In research undertaken by the eSafety Commissioner in 2018, 3,250 Australian parents of children and young people aged two to 17 years shared their views about parenting in the digital age.42 The top four concerns of parents of children and young people aged six to 17 years were:43

  1. Contact with strangers (40.0%)
  2. Exposure to inappropriate content (other than pornography) (37.0%)
  3. Being bullied online (37.0%)
  4. Accessing/being exposed to pornography (37.0%).

The most common ways for parents to find out about their child’s negative online experiences was being told by them (59.0%), highlighting the importance of having a good parent-child relationship.44

Overall, the majority of parents (62.0%) in this study dealt with these concerns themselves, by taking proactive measures including educating their child on how to deal with negative situations, increasing monitoring or requesting that the child block or unfriend the person responsible.45 Parents responded differently depending on the age of their child.

How parents dealt with their child’s negative online experience by age of child, in per cent, Australia, 2018

6 to 7 years

8 to 12 years

13 to 17 years

Did nothing

21.0

17.0

26.0

Spoke to someone

45.0

53.0

51.0

Reported it

37.0

32.0

25.0

Took protective measures

63.0

64.0

61.0

Other actions*

37.0

23.0

22.0

Source: Office of the eSafety Commissioner 2018, Parenting in the digital age

Note: Parents were able to select more than one response.

How parents dealt with their child’s negative online experience by age of child, in per cent, Australia, 2018

Source: Office of the eSafety Commissioner 2018, Parenting in the digital age

Similar proportions of parents across all age groups took protective measures and spoke to someone, while parents of older children were less likely to report negative experiences and more likely to do nothing.

The survey results also showed that in terms of responding to disclosures, parents of teenage daughters were more likely to report the negative behaviour and take protective measures.46

While parents are clearly concerned about online safety, they do not appear to be very proactive in seeking out online safety information preceding a negative online experience, with only 36.0 per cent saying they searched for or received online safety information.47

A Victorian survey48 conducted in 2017 with 2,600 parents found that respondent parents had a range of strategies to monitor and control their child’s online use which varied with age.

Parent strategies to monitor children’s use of electronic devices, in per cent, Victoria, 2017

6 to 12 years

13 to 18 years

I talk about safe use of internet connected devices*

82.8

86.5

I established ground rules*

91.0

80.9

I limit time use*

85.6

52.8

I monitor online activity*

74.3

48.1

I supervise use*

79.9

40.7

I do not monitor my child’s use of devices*

7.8

22.1

I use child safety software and locks*

48.3

22.1

Something else*

13.6

14.0

Not relevant to my child (too young)*

5.6

1.4

Child is not allowed to use electronic devices at all*

0.6

1.0

Source: Parenting Resource Centre, Parenting Today in Victoria Technical Report

* Statistically significant difference across age groups, p<.001.

Parents of young people aged 13 to 18 years were most likely to talk about safe use (86.5%) and establish ground rules (80.9%). Parents’ strategies change as children age with limiting time use and supervision reducing significantly.

No data is available on WA parents’ experiences or opinions about their children’s online activities.

Endnotes

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, 8146.0 - Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2016-17, ABS.
  2. Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) 2013, Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media, 4.2 Use of Social Networking Sites, Australian Government. As the survey was conducted through an online process from a panel of research participants (non-random) the data is not necessarily representative of the broader population of children and young people, particularly those who have limited access to the internet.
  3. Ibid, p. 31.
  4. Ibid, p. 37.
  5. Wu Y et al 2016, A Systematic Review of Recent Research on Adolescent Social Connectedness and Mental Health with Internet Technology Use, Adolescent Research Review, Vol 1, No 2
  6. Tandoc E et al 2015, Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?, Science Direct, Vol 43 p 139-146.
  7. Child Family Community Australia 2012, Parental involvement in preventing and responding to cyberbullying, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Government.
  8. O'Keeffe GS et al 2011, Clinical report: The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families, Pediatrics, Vol 127, No 4, p. 801.
  9. Carlson B and Frazer R 2018, Cyberbullying and Indigenous Australians: A Review of the Literature, Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales and Macquarie University, Sydney.
  10. Child Family Community Australia 2012, Parental involvement in preventing and responding to cyberbullying, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Government.
  11. Office of the ESafety Commissioner 2018, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers, Australian Government, p. 3.
  12. This is because major social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube) specify that users must be at least 13 years-old. Source: Child Family Community Australia 2018, Online Safety: CFCA Resource Sheet, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  13. Office of the ESafety Commissioner 2018, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers, Australian Government, p. 21.
  14. Jadambaa A et al 2019, Prevalence of traditional bullying and cyberbullying among children and adolescents in Australia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 53, No 9.
  15. Kowalski R and Limber S 2013, Psychological, Physical, and Academic Correlates of Cyberbullying and Traditional Bullying, Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol 53, No 1.
  16. Jadambaa A et al 2019, Prevalence of traditional bullying and cyberbullying among children and adolescents in Australia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 53, No 9.
  17. Hemphill S et al 2015, Predictors of Traditional and Cyber-Bullying Victimization: A Longitudinal Study of Australian Secondary School Students, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol 30, No 15.
  18. Jeffrey J and Stuart J 2019, Do Research Definitions of Bullying Capture the Experiences and Understandings of Young People? A Qualitative Investigation into the Characteristics of Bullying Behaviour, International Journal of Bullying Prevention, https://doi.org/10.1007/s42380-019-00026-6 [online].
  19. Whittle J et al 2019, ‘There’s a Bit of Banter’: How Male Teenagers ‘Do Boy’ on Social Networking Sites, in Lumsden K and Harmer E (eds) Online Othering, Palgrave Studies in Cybercrime and Cybersecurity. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  20. Jadambaa A et al 2019, Prevalence of traditional bullying and cyberbullying among children and adolescents in Australia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 53, No 9.
  21. Katz I et al 2014, Research on youth exposure to, and management of, cyberbullying incidents in Australia: Synthesis report (SPRC Report 16/2014), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia, p. 2.
  22. Jadambaa A et al 2019, Prevalence of traditional bullying and cyberbullying among children and adolescents in Australia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 53, No 9.
  23. Katz I et al 2014, Research on youth exposure to, and management of, cyberbullying incidents in Australia: Synthesis report (SPRC Report 16/2014), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia, p. 3.
  24. Office of the eSafety Commissioner 2018, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers, Australian Government, p. 21.
  25. Madigan S et al 2018, Prevalence of Multiple Forms of Sexting Behavior Among Youth: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, JAMA Pediatrics, Vol 172, No 4.
  26. Office of the eSafety Commissioner et al 2017, Young people and sexting – Attitudes and Behaviours: Research findings from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, Office of the eSafety Commissioner, p. 14.
  27. Ibid, p. 14.
  28. Ibid, p. 14.
  29. Doring N 2014, Consensual sexting among adolescents: Risk prevention through abstinence education or safer sexting?, Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, Vol 8, No 1.
  30. Office of the eSafety Commissioner 2017, Image-based abuse: National survey – summary report, Australian Government.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Office of the eSafety Commissioner 2018, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers, Australian Government, p. 13-14.
  33. The Commissioner for Children and Young People understands there are a range of terms and definitions that people use to define their gender or sexuality. The Commissioner’s office will use the broad term LGBTI to inclusively refer to all people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex, as well as to represent other members of the community that use different terms to describe their diverse sexuality and/or gender.
  34. Abreu R and Kenny M 2018, Cyberbullying and LGBTQ Youth: A Systematic Literature Review and Recommendations for Prevention and Intervention, Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, Vol 11, No 1.
  35. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) et al 2013, Out online: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth on the Internet, GLSEN.
  36. Hillier L et al 2010, Writing Themselves in 3: The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, p. 39, 43.
  37. Carlson B and Frazer R 2018, Cyberbullying and Indigenous Australians: A Review of the Literature, Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales and Macquarie University, Sydney, p. 12-13.
  38. Ibid, p. 12-13.
  39. Office of the ESafety Commissioner 2018, State of Play – Youth, Kids and Digital Dangers, Australian Government, p. 23.
  40. Ibid, p. 24.
  41. Ibid, p. 23.
  42. Office of the eSafety Commissioner 2018, Parenting in the digital age, Australian Government, p. 2.
  43. Ibid, p. 6.
  44. Ibid, p. 14.
  45. Ibid, p. 18.
  46. Ibid, p. 20.
  47. Ibid, p. 21.
  48. Parenting Research Centre (PRC) 2017, Parenting Today in Victoria: Report of Key Findings (report produced for the Department of Education and Training, Victoria), PRC.
Measure: Experiencing violence
#1217-violence

Children and young people who are exposed to violence in their community are at higher risk of negative long-term outcomes including substance abuse, anxiety-related disorders and exhibiting future violent behaviour.1,2

Exposure to violence in the community can also contribute to problems forming positive and trusting relationships and is strongly associated with young people exhibiting conduct problems.3

Community violence generally refers to violence in the community that is not perpetrated by a family member and is intended to cause harm.4

For young people aged 12 to 17 years, exposure to violence in the community may be observing or experiencing bullying or aggression from adults or peers or physical (and sexual) assault. This measure considers experiences of physical and sexual assault.

There is limited data on young people under 18 years-old experiencing violence in the community (as distinct from family and domestic violence).

The ABS collects data on victims of assault and sexual assault in the Recorded Crimes – Victims publication from administrative systems maintained by police agencies within each state and territory. This collection includes data on assault and sexual assault for children and young people, however, does not always distinguish between crime in the community and family and domestic violence.

In 2018, 61.4 per cent of physical assaults and 25.1 per cent of sexual assaults recorded in WA were family and domestic violence-related.5

For more information on family and domestic violence refer to the Safe in the home indicator.

It should be noted that the following statistics are based on crimes reported to WA Police and therefore will underestimate the prevalence of assault, particularly sexual assault for young women.6,7

In WA in 2018, 3,952 children and young people aged 10 to 19 years were recorded as victims of assault and 1,371 children and young people aged 10 to 19 years were recorded as victims of sexual assault.8

WA children and young people recorded as victims of assault and sexual assault by age, number and rate, WA, 2018

Assault

Sexual assault

Number

Number per 100,000

Number

Number per 100,000

0 to 9 years

461

133.6

351

101.7

10 to 14 years

1,262

777.7

609

375.3

15 to 19 years

2,690

1,747.2

762

494.9

Source: ABS, Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 7 Victims, Age by selected offences and sex, States and territories, 2018

WA children and young people recorded as victims of assault and sexual assault by age, number and rate, WA, 2018

Source: ABS, Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 7 Victims, Age by selected offences and sex, States and territories, 2018

Young people aged 15 to 19 years are at greater risk of physical and sexual assault than children and young people aged 10 to 14 years (2.2 times more likely to experience physical assault and 1.3 times more likely to experience sexual assault).

There is no data publicly available on the location of these offences for these age groups. However, for the total population (including adults), 24.2 per cent of assaults and 15.1 per cent of sexual assaults were in a community location (e.g. footpath, public transport).9 Therefore, the majority of assaults reported for children and young people likely occurred in the home.

There are significant differences between male and female young people’s experiences of violence with female children and young people being significantly more likely to be the victims of assault and sexual assault across all age groups, except assault of 0 to nine year-old children.

Specifically, in regards to sexual assault, female young people aged 15 to 19 years are nine times more likely than male young people in that age group to be reported as victims of sexual assault.

Children and young people recorded as victims of assault and sexual assault by age group and gender, number, WA, 2018

Assault

Sexual assault

Male

Female

Male

Female

0 to 9 years

275

173

97

242

10 to 14 years

612

625

89

517

15 to 19 years

995

1,681

76

679

Source: ABS, Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 7 Victims, Age by selected offences and sex, States and territories, 2018

Children and young people recorded as victims of assault and sexual assault by age group and gender, number per 100,000, WA, 2018

Assault

Sexual assault

Male

Female

Male

Female

0 to 9 years

155.3

103.0

54.8

144.1

10 to 14 years

736.5

789.3

107.1

652.9

15 to 19 years

1,266.0

2,230.5

96.7

900.9

Source: ABS, Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 7 Victims, Age by selected offences and sex, States and territories, 2018

Children and young people recorded as victims of assault and sexual assault by age group and gender, number per 100,000, WA, 2018

Source: ABS, Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 7 Victims, Age by selected offences and sex, States and territories, 2018

Generally, the risk of children and young people being physically or sexually assaulted increases with age.

Female young people aged 15 to 19 years are at a significantly higher risk of both physical and sexual assault than male young people in this age group. Female young people aged 15 to 19 years have the highest risk of sexual assault across all age groups (506 per 100,000 female young people).10

A high proportion of these assaults will be family and domestic violence related. In 2018 Australian females were sexually assaulted by an intimate partner or family member (family and domestic violence related) at a rate six times higher than males, with 61 female victims per 100,000 females and nine male victims per 100,000 males. The majority of Australian female victims of sexual assault were under 19 years of age (54.0% or 4,140 victims).11

It must also be noted that according to the ABS Personal Safety Survey the majority of women (9 out of 10) who were sexually assaulted did not contact the police after the incident.12 

Overall from 15 years of age, women in Australia are at greatest risk of violence from a cohabiting partner, while men are more likely to experience violence from a stranger (27.0%) or an acquaintance or neighbour (7.4%) than a family member since the age of 15 years.13

Female young people are at risk of experiencing sexual harassment as well as sexual assault.14 Young women are particularly affected by sexual harassment on the street and in other public places, through technology and social media and in schools and universities.15 In recent years there has been increasing information and community discussion on understanding consent and what sexual harassment and assault looks like.

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) was conducted in 2017 and reported on young people’s (aged 16 to 24 years) attitudes to violence against women and gender equality.16 This survey found that most young people aged 16 to 24 years have a good knowledge of key aspects of violence against women, support gender equality, reject attitudes supportive of violence against women, and say they would act or like to act if they witnessed abuse or disrespect of women.17

However, the survey also found that 24.0 per cent of young men thought that women find it flattering to be pursued even if they are not interested (compared to 13.0 per cent of young women) and approximately one in seven young Australians (male and female) believe a man would be justified to force sex if the woman initiated the intimacy, but then changed her mind and pushed him away.18

Data from the ABS 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) records experiences of safety and neighbourhood problems for Aboriginal people across Australia. In this survey, 18.2 per cent of male Aboriginal young people aged 15 to 24 years experienced physical violence in last 12 months, while 15.4 per cent of female Aboriginal young people aged 15 to 24 experienced physical violence in last 12 months.19

The Australian Bureau of Statistics collection on Recorded Crime – Victims does not report on data for Aboriginal people in WA as the data is not of sufficient quality.20 Furthermore, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) does not provide data on children and young people’s experiences of violence.21

Children and young people from the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas are five times more likely to be hospitalised due to assault than other children and young people.22

Hospitalised assault injury cases by socioeconomic status and age group, number and age-specific rate (per 100,000), Australia, 2015–16

1 - Lowest

2

3

4

5 - Highest

0 to 4 years

Number

91

48

22

12

16

Rate

27.7

15.7

7.0

3.8

5.4

5 to 14 years

Number

142

88

70

56

30

Rate

23.5

15.4

11.9

9.6

4.8

Source: AIHW, Hospitalised injury and socioeconomic influence in Australia 2015–16

Notes:

1. Only a small proportion of injuries result in admission to a hospital.

2. Rates are directly age-standardised (per 100,000) using populations by socioeconomic status groups, which do not include persons in areas for which the socioeconomic status could not be determined.

Hospitalised assault injury cases by socioeconomic status and age group, age-specific rate, Australia, 2015–16

Source: AIHW, Hospitalised injury and socioeconomic influence in Australia 2015–16

Higher rates of injury in communities with low socioeconomic status are related to the social determinants of health which increase risk factors for people living with disadvantage. Children and young people experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage are more likely to be living in communities where there are higher levels of unemployment, families experiencing poverty or financial stress, poor housing conditions and a lack of access to services.23

Young people are also at risk of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, within institutions. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) found that a large number of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. The Royal Commission highlighted that sexual abuse of children has occurred in almost every type of institution where children reside or attend for educational, recreational, sporting, religious or cultural activities.

It should be noted that while the Royal Commission was unable to determine the prevalence of child sexual abuse, more than one-half (51.5%) of the survivors reporting to the Royal Commissioner were 10 to 14 years of age when they were first sexually abused.24

There is no data on the prevalence of child abuse, including sexual abuse, in institutional settings in WA.25

Endnotes

  1. Guerra NG and Dierkhising MA 2011, The Effects of Community Violence on Child Development, Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
  2. Luthar S and Goldstein A 2015, Children’s Exposure to Community Violence: Implications for Understanding Risk and Resilience, Journal of Clinical Child Adolescent Psychology, Vol 33, No 3.
  3. Kersten L et al 2017, Community Violence Exposure and Conduct Problems in Children and Adolescents with Conduct Disorder and Healthy Controls, frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience, Vol 11.
  4. Guerra NG and Dierkhising MA 2011, The Effects of Community Violence on Child Development, Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, 4510.0 - Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 22 Victims of family and domestic violence-related offences by sex, ABS.
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, Defining the Data Challenge for Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence, ABS.
  7. Australian Law Reform Commission 2010, The prevalence of sexual violence, Australian Government [website].
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, 4510.0 - Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 7 Victims, Age by selected offences and sex, States and territories, 2018.
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, 4510.0 - Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 8 Victims, Location where offence occurred by selected offences, States and territories, 2018.
  10. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, 4510.0 - Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018, Table 7 Victims, Age by selected offences and sex, States and territories, 2018.
  11. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, Summary: Victims of Family and Domestic Violence related offences, ABS.
  12. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 4906.0 - Personal Safety, Australia, 2016 – Key Findings, ABS.
  13. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018, Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia 2018, Cat no FDV 2, AIHW, p. 23.
  14. Politoff V et al 2019, Young Australians’ attitudes to violence against women and gender equality: Findings from the 2017 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) Insights, Issue 01/2019, ANROWS, p. 5.
  15. Ibid, p. 5.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid, p. 6.
  18. Ibid, p. 27, 31
  19. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15, Table 15.3 Safety, law and justice, by sex, age and remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 15 years and over — 2014–15, Proportion of persons, ABS.
  20. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019, 4510.0 - Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2018 Explanatory Notes, ABS.
  21. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15, ABS.
  22. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Pointer SC 2019, Hospitalised injury and socioeconomic influence in Australia, 2015–16, Injury research and statistics series No 125, Cat No INJCAT 205, AIHW.
  23. American Psychological Association 2019, Fact sheet: violence and socioeconomic status, American Psychological Association.
  24. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017, Final Report: Nature and Cause, Australian Government, p. 87.
  25. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017, Nature and cause: summary, Australian Government [website].
Young people in care

At 30 June 2019, there were 2,420 WA young people in care aged between 10 and 17 years, more than one-half of whom (53.3%) were Aboriginal.1

In 2017, CREATE Foundation collected data from Australian children and young people aged 10 to 17 years about their lives in the care system.2 Only 31.4 per cent of respondents indicated they had a sense of connection with the community in which they live.3 There is no other information on this measure.

There is no data or information publicly available on whether WA young people in care aged 12 to 17 years feel safe in the community that they live in.

Endnotes

  1. Department of Communities 2019, Annual Report: 2018-19, WA Government p. 26.
  2. CREATE Foundation have noted in their 2018 report that recruitment of participants was difficult and resulted in a non-random sample. McDowall JJ 2018, Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards, CREATE Foundation, p. 17-19.
  3. McDowall JJ 2018, Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards, CREATE Foundation, p. 9.
Young people with disability

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2015 data collection reports that approximately 23,700 WA children and young people (7.5%) aged five to 14 years have reported disability.1,2

Young people with disability are at greater risk of not feeling safe in their community and experiencing violence and abuse.3,4,5

There is no data on whether young people with disability in WA feel safe in their community.

Recent Australian research reported that 16 to 30 year-olds with disability feel safe in their communities when embedded in organisations and groups in their local communities, and have supportive relationships with workers and peers in these places. What mattered most was being known and valued, and listened to if they raised concerns about safety.6 

Research was commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) to develop an understanding what helps children and young people with disability and high support needs to feel and be safe in institutional settings. This was a small study with 22 children and young people aged between seven and 25 years.7

This research found that children and young people with disability were vulnerable because institutional practices often isolated them from their local communities and long-term support relationships.8 The study also suggested that children and young people with disability can have a diminished social life as they find it difficult to assess the relative risk of harm and can fear people they do not know, as ‘stranger danger’ is emphasised by parents and caregivers.9

The Royal Commission also concluded that children with disability who disclosed sexual abuse were often not believed or their distress was explained as a function of their disability. Furthermore, survivors with communication and cognitive impairments were reliant on supportive adults noticing and understanding changes in their behaviour after the abuse.10

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has been established to specifically address evidence that people with disability are being abused in institutional and other settings. This Royal Commission is currently receiving submissions and holding hearings.

There are no nationally consistent data sets available to determine the extent of violence, abuse and neglect of children and young people with disability.11

Endnotes

  1. ABS uses the following definition of disability: ‘In the context of health experience, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICFDH) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions… In this survey, a person has a disability if they report they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.’ Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015, Glossary.
  2. Estimate is to be used with caution as it has a relative standard error of between 25 and 50 per cent. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015: Western Australia, Table 1.1 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015 estimate, and Table 1.3 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015, proportion of persons.
  3. Wayland S and Hindmarsh G 2017, Understanding safeguarding practices for children with disability when engaging with organisations, Child Family Community Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies, p. 3.
  4. Robinson S 2016, Feeling safe, being safe: what is important to children and young people with disability and high support needs about safety in institutional settings?, Centre for Children and Young People, Southern Cross University, p. 9.
  5. Jones L et al 2012, Prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies, The Lancet, Vol 380, No 9845.
  6. Robinson S et al 2017, Preventing abuse and promoting personal safety in young people with disability, Southern Cross University.
  7. Robinson S 2016, Feeling safe, being safe: what is important to children and young people with disability and high support needs about safety in institutional settings?, Centre for Children and Young People, Southern Cross University.
  8. Ibid, p. 9.
  9. Ibid, p. 9.
  10. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017, Final Report: Preface and executive summary, Australian Government, p. 14.
  11. Community Affairs References Committee 2015, Violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings, including the gender and age related dimensions, and the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability, Commonwealth of Australia, p. 37.
Policy implications

Safe places and spaces in the community help young people develop their independence and have the confidence to lead healthy, active lifestyles.1 Feeling safe in the community increases the likelihood that young people will engage in extra-curricular activities and build supportive relationships with other young people and adults.

The right to enjoy community life in places and spaces that are safe and welcoming is something all young people are entitled to under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).2

Young people who are exposed to violence or abuse in their community either as victims or onlookers can experience multiple negative outcomes including problems forming relationships, mental health issues and increased likelihood of engaging in risk-taking behaviour.3,4,5

Local communities can play a significant role in supporting vulnerable young people, particularly where services are not meeting their needs. Building respectful, trusting relationships with vulnerable young people has a powerful impact and can be the circuit breaker that disrupts their trajectory of vulnerability and creates a pathway for positive change.6

Creating safe neighbourhoods and communities for young people aged 12 to 17 years requires a number of areas of focus:

  • Ensuring public transport and public spaces such as parks and footpaths are safe for young people, particularly at night.
  • Ensuring community-based organisations and general community members have a no-tolerance approach to gender-based harassment and violence.
  • Ensuring organisations that interact with young people, including sports/activity groups, schools and council facilities employ child safe policies and practices.
  • Policies which are focused on reducing disadvantage and social exclusion more broadly, which can indirectly reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in socially and economically disadvantaged communities.7,8

Safe, accessible places are an important component of healthy communities and have an impact on community cohesion and how a community works together, shares values and overcomes adversity. Ensuring public spaces are safe and responsive to the local community’s needs is critical. This includes asking young people what would make the public spaces in their community more safe and welcoming for them.

Communities where there are low incomes, high unemployment and limited access to services are more likely to have higher levels of crime and antisocial behaviour.9 Poverty does not cause criminal behaviour, however, the experience of being poor creates material and social conditions (high levels of stress, mental health issues, lack of access to services etc.) that increase the likelihood of being a victim or perpetrator of criminal behaviour.10

A law and order response which criminalises adults (who are often parents) and some children and young people, does not lead to long term change for that community.11,12 Policies which support communities to address identified issues should be place-based and designed by the people, including young people, in that community so they are tailored to local circumstances and the community’s needs.13,14

Furthermore, policies which address poverty and disadvantage more broadly are essential to improve affected young people’s experiences of feeling and being safe in their community.

Survey data and research show that young women are particularly vulnerable to not only feeling unsafe in their community, but also being unsafe. This requires a concerted effort by not only government, but also community members to ensure that sexual discrimination, harassment and violence are not tolerated. The majority of sexual harassment and violence cases continues to go unreported despite multiple studies proving that false allegations of sexual violence are rare.15 In addition, survey data shows that 31 per cent of young Australian men believe that women exaggerate the problem of male violence.16 Continued investment in school-based education campaigns on respectful relationships and consent are critical.

Online safety is also important for young people aged 12 to 17 years. There has been considerable research and policy focus on safety and bullying for young people over recent years, including online safety. Educating young people about online safety is critically important, as without appropriate support and guidance, negative experiences can significantly affect a young person’s mental health and wellbeing.17,18,19 There are a number of online resources which help families and communities create safer on-line environments including the National Centre Against Bullying website and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner website.

Young people are also vulnerable to abuse when organisations neglect their responsibilities to foster a child-safe environment. This can be through failing to listen to children and young people or due to a lack of policies and procedures aimed at reducing risk of harm and prioritising the reputation of the organisation over the wellbeing of children and young people.

Organisations that interact with young people, either as part of their normal operations or on an ad-hoc basis, need to engage in child safe work practices. The Commissioner for Children and Young People WA publishes the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations WA: Guidelines and other child safe resources to assist organisations to identify and manage risks that affect the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.

Studies have repeatedly shown that when young people have no confidence that adults or institutions will respond to their safety concerns, they are less likely to raise concerns or seek help.20 Child safe and friendly organisations establish mechanisms for listening to children and young people about all types of concerns or complaints. A child-friendly complaint system must provide children and young people with a variety of safe ways to share concerns; respond appropriately to any complaints, disclosures or suspicions of harm; and review all complaints from children and achieve systemic improvements.

For more information on developing a child-friendly complaints system refer to the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s Complaints resources page.

Data gaps

There is limited data on WA young people’s experiences of their communities including whether they feel safe and welcome. It is important to gather young people’s perspectives of their communities and what makes them feel safe. Young people’s perceptions of safety are important and influence their behaviours, attitudes and mental health.

There is limited data on the prevalence of WA young people’s experiences of violence and abuse in their communities.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse highlighted a lack of comprehensive data on abuse of children and young people and recommended that the Australian Government conduct and publish a nationally representative prevalence study on a regular basis to establish the extent of child maltreatment in institutional and non-institutional contexts in Australia (Recommendation 2.1).21

In the Commissioner’s Speaking Out Survey WA children and young people aged eight to 17 years were asked questions about feeling safe in the community. Results from the study will be published in 2020.

Endnotes

  1. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2019, Discussion Paper: Living Environment - The effects of physical and social environments on the health and wellbeing of children and young people, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  2. UNICEF 2019, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF [website].
  3. Guerra NG and Dierkhising MA 2011, The Effects of Community Violence on Child Development, Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
  4. Luthar S and Goldstein A 2015, Children’s Exposure to Community Violence: Implications for Understanding Risk and Resilience, Journal of Clinical Child Adolescent Psychology, Vol 33, No 3.
  5. Kersten L et al 2017, Community Violence Exposure and Conduct Problems in Children and Adolescents with Conduct Disorder and Healthy Controls, frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience, Vol 11.
  6. Little M et al 2015, Bringing Everything I Am Into One Place, Dartington Social Research Unit and Lankelly Chase.
  7. Webster C and Kingston S 2014, Crime and Poverty, in Reducing Poverty in the UK: A collection of evidence review, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, p. 148.
  8. Schwartz M 2010, Building communities, not prisons: Justice reinvestment and Indigenous over-imprisonment, Australian Indigenous Law Review, Vol 14, No 1.
  9. American Psychological Association 2019, Fact sheet: violence and socioeconomic status, American Psychological Association.
  10. Webster C and Kingston S 2014, Crime and Poverty, in Reducing Poverty in the UK: A collection of evidence review, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, p. 149.
  11. Schwartz M 2010, Building communities, not prisons: Justice reinvestment and Indigenous over-imprisonment, Australian Indigenous Law Review, Vol 14, No 1.
  12. Walsh, Tamara 2018, Keeping vulnerable offenders out of the courts: lessons from the United Kingdom, Criminal Law Journal, Vol 42, No 3.
  13. Bellefontaine T and Wisener R 2011, The evaluation of place-based approaches: Questions for further research, Policy Horizons Canada, p 6.
  14. Schwartz M 2010, Building communities, not prisons: Justice reinvestment and Indigenous over-imprisonment, Australian Indigenous Law Review, Vol 14, No 1.
  15. Webster K et al 2018, Australians’ attitudes to violence against women and gender equality. Findings from the 2017 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) Research report, 03/2018), ANROWS, p. 50.
  16. Ibid, p. 50.
  17. Tandoc E et al 2015, Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?, Science Direct, Vol 43 p 139-146.
  18. Wu Y et al 2016, A Systematic Review of Recent Research on Adolescent Social Connectedness and Mental Health with Internet Technology Use, Adolescent Research Review, Vol 1, No 2.
  19. Child Family Community Australia 2012, Parental involvement in preventing and responding to cyberbullying, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Government.
  20. Moore T et al 2016, Our safety counts: Children and young people’s perceptions of safety and institutional responses to their safety concerns, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, p. 7.
  21. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017, Final Report: Preface and executive summary, Australian Government, p. 106.
Further resources

For more information on the importance of young people feeling and being safe in their community refer to the following resources:

Endnotes

  1. Tucci J et al 2008, Children’s sense of safety: Children’s experiences of childhood in contemporary Australia, Australian Childhood Foundation, p. 11.
  2. Eastman C et al 2014, Thriving in Adversity: A positive deviance study of safe communities for children (SPRC Report 30/2014), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia.
  3. Guerra NG and Dierkhising MA 2011, The Effects of Community Violence on Child Development, Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
  4. Luthar S and Goldstein A 2015, Children’s Exposure to Community Violence: Implications for Understanding Risk and Resilience, Journal of Clinical Child Adolescent Psychology, Vol 33, No 3.