Showing respect online, one click at a time

Australia’s most comprehensive youth, technology and mental health collaboration, the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, has today launched an unprecedented online campaign targeting Australian teenagers, drawing attention to the consequences of thoughtless and hurtful use of social media and empowering them to act with respect online. 

Up to 80 per cent of Australians aged between 12 and 18 will be exposed to the Young and Well CRC’s interactive online campaign, ‘Keep It Tame’, which is backed by the nation’s top 20 youth-focused websites and has been developed by young people, leading marketers and top academics. 

Unique to the campaign is the application of an innovative digital tracking methodology, which – in conjunction with a cohort study that will survey and interview young people over time – will measure its impact on behaviour change.

The campaign guides teenagers through a series of mock social media posts. As things turn nasty, an animated creature slowly becomes more grotesque, highlighting the hurtful effects of the online exchanges and ultimately encouraging people to act with respect. 

“Many people unfortunately experience hurtful behaviour online at some stage, and it’s crucial that this generation of Australians doesn’t grow up thinking this is the natural way to communicate online, because it isn’t,” says Young and Well CRC Research Program Leader, Dr Philippa Collin, from the University of Western Sydney.

“The reality is there are lots of young people who don't think it's okay to make fun, tease or bully someone online and this campaign is all about empowering young people to take advantage of the tools and techniques that are already available to them to take control of ugly situations and use mobile phones, computers and tablets positively to interact with each other.”

One of the young people involved in the design of the campaign, Imogen, says, “Keep it Tame shows the risks and harms of taking a ‘joke’ too far, and really puts the person doing the wrong in the other position – understanding whether it would be any different if they were on the receiving end.”

The Keep it Tame campaign is the first in a series of campaigns to come out of the Young and Well CRC’s Safe and Well Online project, a five-year study of the most effective ways to design, deliver and evaluate online social marketing campaigns aimed at improving safety and wellbeing.

This study will follow a cohort of young people through each campaign using digital tracking to assess how they engage and the extent to which their attitudes and behaviours change.

Dr Collin says the five-year project will provide a snapshot of how young people interact online while also mapping how they react to prompts on their behaviour.

"Our research will look at actual attitude and behaviour change over time, and we'll be able to tell what kinds of digital interactivity are most effective for achieving this,” she says.

Associate Professor Jane Burns, CEO of the Young and Well CRC, says it’s important to empower young people as their social groups move online.

“The great thing about this project is the fact that 130 young people had such a big say in how it works,” she says.

“Added to this, the incredible support of this campaign by Australia’s top 20 youth websites will help us reach out to such a broad cross section of society and give them the knowledge and confidence to take control and act respectfully online.”

Lead Researcher for the Safe and Well Online project, Dr Barbara Spears from the University of South Australia, says the project does not tell young people how they should behave online, but encourages them to take active ownership of what happens in their social relationships through their actions online. 
Keep it Tame Image

“We’ve set the project up to allow us to test new approaches to social communications, and as the project progresses over the next few years we will develop new campaigns that build on the messaging of earlier ones,” says Dr Spears.

Preliminary data on the ‘Keep it Tame’ campaign will be available in December 2012. The first outcomes of the longitudinal study on social marketing and behavioural change are expected by March 2013. For the latest data, subscribe to the Young and Well Network at

This project is an initiative of the Young and Well CRC and is led by the University of South Australia in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney, Zuni and the Queensland University of Technology. Safe and Well Online builds upon the original Smart Online Safe Offline initiative developed by NAPCAN.


9 November 2012

Contact: Mark Smith, Media Officer