Up to 60 per cent of young Australians have experienced race abuse online

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Young people are subjected to extensive online hate according to new survey results commissioned by Office of the eSafety Commissioner and the Department of Education and Training.

Now 20 years old, Jess Vaughan has experienced online abuse due to her sexuality.

"Most of the time they're commenting either back to me when I have commented on something. Generally when I have commented on something that's a political stance."

Jess Vaughan said this would then lead to targeted abuse.

"I have had some comments saying things like 'you have been brainwashed', 'you're a dyke'. I could go into more horrible terms but, they can get quite derogatory and I have been threatened as well."

And it's an issue affecting some groups more than others.

Almost 2,500 young people across Australia aged between 12-17 were surveyed for research commissioned by the Office of the eSafety Commisioner and the Department of Education and Training.

The research revealed young people from different religious and cultural backgrounds, Indigenous people and youth who identify as LGBTI were the most frequent targets of online hate.

The most targeted group was Muslims, with 53 per cent responding that they had faced harmful online content.

That was well ahead of asylum seekers and Indigenous people at 37 per cent respectively.

Behind them, in order, were refugees, Asians, LGBTI people, Africans, Jews and Christians.

Respect, responsibility and empathy

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the research has led to the creation of new online resources for young people to help them cope with the problem.

'The age most people should be starting social media is 13, but we know there is a lot of peer pressure by young people to join Instagram and Snapchat at the age of 12."

Julie Inman Grant
"Parents are always the frontline defence for protecting their children online": Julie Inman Grant .
AAP

Ms Inman Grant said 'So the Young' and eSafe initiative was set up to help young people build critical thinking skills, resilience and teach them more about respect, responsibility and empathy online.

"So they can demonstrate those values, but so they can also deal with conflict, hate and racism when they encounter it."

The Young & eSafe resources were developed in consultation with the Australian Multicultural Foundation to make sure they were relevant to a broad range of young people.

Hass Dellal, the Executive Director for the Multicultural Foundation, says one of the benefits of the resource is that it was created for young people by young people.  

"It looks at the power to act so when there is an issue, who do you speak to? Who do you go to? Empowering other young people to unite together and oppose these sort of online hate messages."

Mr Dellal also said the tool encourages more communication within families to combat the issue.

"I think it's important for parents to be able to recognise early warning signs where young people are having difficulty or being troubled. And I think what the tool does is it teaches young people how to engage with your families."

Life beyond online bullying

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant agrees parents needed to play a bigger role in monitoring their children's online usage.

"I believe that parents are always the frontline defence for protecting their children online but for also encouraging them to demonstrate those values online that they'd like them to live as global citizens."

Ms Inman Grant said parents need to start educating their children early about online safety.

"When kids start swiping the iPad at the age of three, they need to understand the digital do's and don'ts."

As someone who has lived through online abuse, Jess Vaughan said she wants young people to know that there is life beyond online bullying.

"Everyone tells you 'it will get better. It does, it does'. At that point of time you don't really want to hear that.

"Just take a breath, take a step and know you are being your true self and there are services out there that can help you reach out. It's not silly to reach out, it actually makes you a stronger person than if you didn't reach out. So reach out. It's so important."

The resource can be found here.

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