Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites


Melissa de Zwart
David Lindsay
Michael Henderson
Michael Phillips
Year of publication: 2011

teens_legal_snsRisks posed by forms of abusive behaviour such as cyber-bullying and grooming have been emphasised, both in the mainstream media and in policy responses, however comparatively little attention has been given to the potential legal risks that children and young people may face when they use social networking services (SNS).

This Report and its accompanying Educational Resource is the culmination of an 18 month project which collected survey and interview data from 17 school communities across Victoria totalling over 1000 school students (years 7-10), 200 school teachers and 49 parents. The authors also conducted a comprehensive review of the literature, SNS Terms of Service (ToS), and the Australian and International regulatory environment.

The project identified the following as the main areas of the law that give rise to possible legal liability for young people using SNS:

  1. Privacy, disclosure and breach of confidence;
  2. Intellectual property rights, especially copyright infringement;
  3. Defamation; and
  4. Criminal laws, including harassment and offensive material.

The project found that young people, their parents, and teachers were generally aware that the use of SNS can give rise to risks that must be managed, however there was a worrying lack of understanding of the nature of the legal risks.

The Report:

Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

teens_legal_sns_smallThe Report includes seven chapters

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction: defining SNS, the benefits and legal risks
  3. Research design
  4. Empirical results: Student SNS practices
  5. The legal risks faced by young people using SNS
  6. Regulatory and Policy Respones
  7. Conclusion

Download report [size of download 600Kb]

Educational Resource (for teachers and parents):

Will u friend me? Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

legalrisks_sns_smallThe findings of our research clearly indicate that students need to be actively engaged in meaningful discussions around their safety and the safety of the people in their networks.

This resource has been designed to aid teachers and parents in helping their students/children to critically consider the risks and legal implications of using social networking sites (SNS).

The resource can be downloaded in two formats:

  1. Standard A4 with larger print [size of download 700Kb]
  2. Landscape A4 with two pages (A5) per sheet [size of download 1.35Mb]