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Mr. Grant Watts - Harmful Digital Communications Act
Photo by PNBHS

Harmful Digital Communications Act


Have you had a conversation with your son about his online activity? What do you know about the images stored on his phone?

Just as parents regularly talk with their children about the physical places they visit and 'what they get up to', it is important that we are having conversations with our children about the online places they visit and their online activity.

At a recent assembly Mr. Grant Watts from the Palmerston North Police spoke to our young men about the Harmful Digital Communications Act and their obligations and responsibilities with their online activities. Mr. Watts reinforced the key message that "What you post online you are responsible for." Anything that becomes public, even if it was initially shared in a closed group or was meant as a joke, can be followed up under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, if it is offensive. Mr. Watts' advice was "Don't put anything online you don't want your mum to see" - some prescient words.

About the Harmful Digital Communications Act

The Act helps to address some of the ways people use technology to harm others. It was created to help prevent and reduce the impact of online bullying, harassment, revenge porn and other forms of online abuse and intimidation. There are two parts to the Act – a civil regime and criminal offences.

What are Harmful Digital Communications?

Under the Act, harmful digital communications can be private messages or public content. They include; when someone uses the internet, email, apps, social media or mobile phones to send or publish harmful content.

To be considered a harmful digital communication under the Act, the content needs to

  1. Affect an individual; and
  2. Cause (or is likely to cause) that individual serious emotional distress; and
  3. Seriously breach one or more of the ten communication principles outlined in the Act.

The Ten Communication Principles

The ten principles say that a digital communication should not:

  1. disclose sensitive personal facts about a person;
  2. be threatening, intimidating, or menacing;
  3. be grossly offensive;
  4. be indecent or obscene;
  5. be used to harass a person;
  6. make a false allegation;
  7. breach confidences;
  8. incite or encourage anyone to send a deliberately harmful message;
  9. incite or encourage a person to commit suicide; and
  10. denigrate a person’s colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

Click here to find out more about the Harmful Digital Communications Act on the Netsafe website.

Mr. Watts has had a long association with PNBHS as a parent, a member of the Board of Trustees and in his role with the Police, and we sincerely thank him for his time and ongoing support of the school.