A ground-breaking study from Netsafe uncovers a range of reasons harmful digital communications are sent. The amount of thought that goes into pressing send on a text or email is under the spotlight.

Netsafe surveyed adults to determine if they’ve sent harmful digital communications in the last year, and the reasons behind their actions. With 18 percent of adults reporting they had received harmful digital communications, this new study sought to understand who is creating the content, and why it was happening.

The research found:

  • Eleven percent of adults admitted sending or sharing at least one type of potentially harmful digital communication – and nearly 80 percent had done this more than once.
  • Topping the list of reasons for sending a harmful digital communication was “for a joke” (28 percent), “to influence behaviour or thoughts” (14 percent), “to scare” (8 percent) and “to embarrass” (6 percent).
  • Six percent of respondents admitted to saying offensive things about someone else, and three percent tried to embarrass another person, attempted to exclude someone from a friendship group or made a sexual advance they were not sure was welcome.
  • Of those who sent harmful digital communications, 29 percent were friends of the recipient and 20 percent were family members. The main way to harm someone is predominantly via text (39 percent) followed by social media (34 percent) and email (20 percent).

See full report

“Netsafe can help people who have been the recipient of deliberate abuse and also assist people who didn’t intend to hurt others,” Martin Cocker, CEO, says. “It is important to see deliberate offenders prosecuted, but also to provide ways people can reverse harm that they may have accidentally caused.”

Netsafe is available seven days a week to provide free, confidential and non-judgemental support to those experiencing online harm – or for people who had been sending material likely to upset or affect others that were looking to make amends.