It’s a sad fact that according to the White Ribbon report, about 40% of Australian women will be the victims of violence at some point in their lifetime. But for many women, escaping the situation isn’t as simple as walking out the door. Many fear for their personal safety, and in this day and age where the internet is a treasure trove of information, staying hidden or under the radar isn’t as safe as it once was.

Here are five tips to help you, or someone you know, protect themselves online. These tips are from Telstra’s Safe Connections program, a partnership with the Women’s Services Network (WESNET) to help women impacted by domestic violence to stay safely connected.

1. Always turn location/GPS and Bluetooth off on your phone

It’s easy to forget that most smartphones have a GPS feature that can pinpoint your exact location. Someone who’s previously had access to your phone can use apps that send this GPS location to their phone, so they always know where you are.

With Bluetooth, it’s possible for someone with previous access to use a Bluetooth connection to access your phone. This can include access to your SMSes, call history, contacts, and even photos. The safest way is to keep it turned off.

2. Change your passwords regularly

Whether it’s your phone, Facebook, online banking, or your laptop, to name a few – if it has a password, ensure it’s changed every month, or even every week. Yes, it does make passwords a pain to remember, but it also ensures that your abuser doesn’t have access to any of your private information.

3. Create a separate email account for safety planning and legal communication

If you’re talking to a lawyer, a victim advocate such as someone at WESNET, or even to a friend about your escape plan, do not use your regular email. Set up a separate email account on a computer that your abuser doesn’t have access to, and only check that email account from the safe computer.

Don’t assume that just because you’ve changed your password for your normal email account, your abuser can’t access it. Your password may not be as secret as you think, or they might find another way to access it through your tablet or phone, for example. Play it safe, and use a new, different email account they’re not aware of.

4. Adjust your children’s and your own privacy settings on devices and social media

Just because you’ve unfriended your abuser on Facebook doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to see your posts. It’s as simple as them getting access to one of your friends’ accounts, and they can see everything once more.

Facebook now has options to choose who can post on your wall, and who can see what’s posted on your wall. Go through all the privacy settings for the social media you use, and ensure that friends and family can’t accidentally reveal or provide clues to your location with a seemingly innocent comment.

Same with your children – have a discussion with them about what they can and can’t say online, as well as when and how the other parent is allowed to communicate with them. Then keep a close eye on their social media accounts, regardless.

5. Document all threats

Even if you think your phone or computer is being accessed or watched, don’t simply throw it out or abandon it. You need to ensure you have a record of all threats that have been made against you, so you can take them to the police, your lawyer, or a community legal service to have them documented as evidence.

There are many programs that can back up texts. You should also take screenshots or print your call history. Many phones these days also allow you to record phone calls, though that’s getting into slightly murkier legal territory. You’ll need to get legal advice to determine if you can use such recordings as formal evidence.


These are just some simple ways to protect yourself online. But most importantly, trying to deal with violence and abuse on your own can be very dangerous. If you are in such a situation, always work with a domestic violence or sexual assault support worker to help you plan for your safety, and always call 000 in an emergency.

If you, or someone you know, needs help with domestic violence, abuse or sexual assault, you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for support and assistance. You can also access online counseling at

The catchphrase “Do you know where your children are?” was a popular public service announcement on American television, but despite your children being under your roof – do you know where they are in the digital world?

Sydney, 28 July 2014: Leaders in Heels were invited to a media event to discuss the findings of the 2014 Australian Teens, Tweens and Technology research by McAfee, part of Intel Security. The research looked into the online behavior of teens and tweens – from how they use apps to their opinions on cyberbullying and current online trends.

“Teens and tweens are comfortable operating in the online world, yet the risks have never been greater and they need to understand the consequences of their online behavior”–Melanie Duca, APAC Consumer Marketing Director, McAfee.

The Research

1013 teens and tweens of an equal gender split and representative of all Australian demographics were surveyed. McAfee’s research found that 81% of Australia’s youth have witnessed cyberbullying-a huge jump of 56% from 2013. This research, in its second year, aims to educate tweens and teens on the impact that risky behavior has on their privacy, reputation and social media experience.

The research found that YouTube is the number one social site across all age groups, with Facebook the most likely to be visited daily. However, new social media sites such as Keek, a video-based social networking site, Yik, an anonymous messaging site, and Snapchat, a photo-messaging platform where users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as “Snaps”. Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (as of April 2014, the range is from 1 to 10 seconds. There’s also Kik, a smartphone messenger with a built-in browser, and Keek, a social networking service that allows its users to upload video status updates, which are called “keeks”, have gained quick acceptance across all age groups.

Facebook has seen a spike in underage users, with 31% of 8-9 years old, compared with 26% in 2013 and 60% of 10-12 year olds admitting to having a Facebook profile, despite the minimum age being 13 years.

The survey also revealed that 40% of teens and tweens are experiencing cyberbullying.

Life Education Australia identified a huge demand for cybersafety and partnered with McAfee to educate primary aged children in cybersafety and cyber ethics. Coincidentally, my child was participating in the Life Education bCyberwise programme at school today – and she found it reinforced the advice we have given our children at home (phew). Their programme is aligned with the Australian curriculum and offers a safe learning environment, empowering children to make safe choices.

“Our bCyberwise and It’s Your Call programmes, developed in conjunction with McAfee, teach teens and tweens about being safe cyber citizens and how to respect others online, with the focus on prevention, as well as teaching valuable skills that promote social and emotional development, positive relationships, self-respect and safe-decision-making online.”–Robyn Richardson, Life Education National Programme Development Manager

Generation Like

What the research also found is that drive for attention and acceptance, as well as the growing comfort level of young people with digital media, is leading to them letting their guard down and engaging in risky behaviours. Nearly half (48%) have chatted online with a stranger and one in five have met someone in person that they first met online.

Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulsen explained that the pre-frontal cortex, where our higher-level thinking occurs, does not fully develop until the early 20s for females and mid 20s for males. This explains the impulsivity and “thoughtlessness” of our youth, who thrive on the social media currency of likes, shares and retweets to prove their popularity amongst peers.

“We know that teens and tweens are willing to sacrifice privacy and cybersafety for the gratification they feel when their social network responds positively”–Dr Justin Coulsen

Parental guidance

Parents need to guide experiences. Dr Coulson made the wonderful analogy that we wouldn’t give our children car keys and say off you go – drive. We ensure they learn to drive a vehicle properly, and once they attain their provisional license, there are still restrictions on driving behaviours. Eight in ten teens and tweens said they respect guidance from parents on personal decisions regarding social media and that their parents trust them to make the right decisions.

However, parents aren’t fully across their children’s online activity, with 70% saying their parents know only some of what they do online, as they proactively hide what they do online from their parents. Half said their parents can’t keep up with the technology. So parents, you need to up your tech cred. The key is monitoring, which means having a conversation with your children. Installing spyware is subversive.

Parents should establish an ongoing, non-confrontational dialogue with their children about this topic and continue to monitor their activities ,as well as stay up-to-date with advancements in technology and social networking .”–Alex Merton-McCann, McAfee Cybermum

Other survey highlights

Younger children fear being bullied online (27%), whereas teens are more fearful of losing their information (21%), being hacked (31%) and losing their privacy (23%).

Top Tips for Parents

  1. Connect with your kids. Talk to them about online risks and make sure the communication lines are always open.
  2. Learn the technology. Take the time to research the various devices and apps your children use. You want to know more than they do.
  3. Get Social. Stay knowledgeable about the latest social networks so you understand how it works.
  4. Reputation Management. Make sure your children are aware that anything they post online is permanent.
  5. Stay calm. If your children come to you with an online problem, do not over-react. Deal with it calmly and don’t threaten to take devices away, or they won’t feel confident seeking your help again.
  6. Be a model digital citizen yourself. If your children see you behaving inappropriately online, they’ll take that as a cue for their behavior.

Yolanda Floro

Yolanda is Leaders in Heels’ Social Media Editor.

You can read more about McAfee here.

You can read more about Life Education Australia and McAfee’s bCyberwise programme here.