Reports of cyber-bullying have surged during the Covid-19 pandemic, but more and more schools and homes are learning how to prevent the abuse.
With most of the country forced online, Australia has seen a spike in cyber-bullying and image-based abuse for students in primary and high school.
Statistics provided by the country's eSafety Commissioner's office show that one in five Australian kids have been cyberbullied, with 14 being the average age of the victims.
Girls are targeted much more than boys and this is most prevalent in primary schools, where 70 per cent of the bullying is directed at young girls.
Research from the Cyber Safety Project also found that children are accessing social media at a younger age due to Covid.
"Before the pandemic, there were about 40 per cent of the students we assessed who had used social media before the age of 12. Our research earlier this year, from about 2000 students, showed that 84 per cent of them had now used social media before they were 12," Cyber Safety Project co-founder Trent Ray said.
However, there has also been significant growth in programmes focused on preventing cyber-bullying and image-based abuse.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said uptake of the organisation's Trusted eSafety Provider programme, which endorses evidence-based online safety education programmes for schools, has grown significantly.
"In the last financial year, 2772 schools – or about 29 per cent of all Australian schools – had at least one session from a Trusted eSafety Provider," Inman Grant said.
"These providers reported a total of 772,305 participants had taken part in their school-based programmes in the 2020-21 financial year alone."
Tips for protecting kids online
News.com.au spoke to cyber safety experts about the most common forms of cyber-bullying and image-based abuse for primary and high school students.
They recommend getting in and trying the games and apps your kids are using, as well as starting an open dialogue about what they like to do on the internet.
Here are some of their top tips for primary school-aged students, high school students, online gaming and creating positive online relationships.
Primary school-aged children
Getting involved with the apps and games primary school-aged children are using is the key piece of advice from cyber safety experts.
Optus Digital Thumbprint Program manager Kristina Binks said most parents should be able to navigate through their children's online applications.
"Get in there and see how it feels, look at the options available on the product. Whether it's a live chat or different elements of the game," she said.
She added it was important to be hands-on as the majority of children learn by making mistakes.
"This generation of children has been raised on technology where it is very low stakes. There was a lot of concern on computers in the 90s and 2000s where you felt as if one mistake could wreck the system," she said.
"Kids nowadays learn online by making mistakes, because the repercussions are so minor now it is easy for them to do. The problem from this is that they learn what the boundaries are but they do not understand these boundaries."
High school-aged children
As children move into high school they face greater problems with image-based abuse and cyber-bullying.
Studies show that bullying through the ages of 10-14 affects its victims the worst.
As the students get older, there is also the prevalence of image-based abuse. This typically manifests itself as intimate photos being shared online.
Ms Binks said it is important for children to know the legality of what they may be doing.
"In their teens, they are starting to explore different online communications. When texting a partner, how do you know it will not get shared? If you are over the age of 18, you are able to legally send some types of images. But if you are not there are strict rules," she said.
"People often miss the fact that asking for naked photos is also against the law. This is the same with sharing, or having naked photos on your phone that were not intended for you – or the person is under 18."
Gaming online is well and truly a part of growing up in 2021.
Millions of people engage with these games, which act as social platforms, across the world.
Cyber Safety Project co-founder Trent Ray said that 90 per cent of the children who engage in their programs play games, and 60 per cent of them said they play regularly.
"Online gaming is a new type of social interaction, most games now have an element of social connectedness. Most children play with people they know, however, there is the element of the unknown in these environments," he said.
"Our surveys show that 39 per cent of children have an ongoing friendship with someone they met online."
He recommends parents actively looking through the game for privacy and wellbeing settings.
"The games have these settings which can protect children, but they are not a default setting. You just need to jump in and switch them on," he said.