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Reimagining Online Safety: Introducing In Real Life

In Real Life Producer, Dan Donahoo, shares insights into the development of our latest online resource for secondary schools, 'In Real Life', developed in response to educators across Australia asking for resources they can weave into their curriculum to create a tailored learning experience.

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IN REAL LIFE is our latest video-based resource for use in secondary school classrooms to support teachers and students to discuss and develop strategies to navigate the daily challenges of our digitally saturated lives. 

We began this project by talking with teachers through a series of consultations. In the early stages one teacher said,

‘Students hear “how bad social media is” and “technology is not good for you” so much that it normalises this messaging and becomes easy to ignore. Then students switch off. I’ve seen it. It happens all the time.’

More than one teacher highlighted that by the time students are in secondary school they are no longer listening to the online safety messages we present.

The approach, the messages and the content is no longer relevant to them. This was further identified by research from the Young and Resilient Research Centre with young people as part of this project. 

They identified:

“Online safety education is typically designed by adults for young people. As a consequence, it often reflects adult perspectives and concerns.

While existing education has been somewhat successful in raising young people’s awareness about online harms, young Australians report gaps in their online safety skills and knowledge, particularly around managing difficult experiences online and supporting others through negative experiences.

They also describe feeling misunderstood and disempowered by current online safety messaging."
Mac Z, IRL Youth Content Creator
Mac Z, IRL Youth Content Creator


IN REAL LIFE creates the space for students to identify the problems, and seek support from their peers and teachers to build strategies to help. This youth-driven approach is in response to the research and the current understanding that despite more than a decade of programs and work trying to deal with these issues, the problems are still prevalent challenge for young people today.

Teacher and students sitting at a table in a classroom
Teacher and students sitting at a table in a classroom


IN REAL LIFE offers teachers the ability to bring the authentic voices of young people aged 12 to 19 years into their classrooms. They don’t have to have the answers, or dictate black and white rules that don’t connect to students' lived experience, instead they have resources that allow them to open conversations with (and between) students that address the daily challenges of a modern life lived online.

Teachers told us to respect their skills and capacity to design learning and create lessons that worked for their students and their context – but to give them tools they are missing. IN REAL LIFE offers impact and engagement by changing the focus, and offering issues designed and shared by young people themselves.

Group of students sitting for a roundtable discussion in a classroom
Group of students sitting for a roundtable discussion in a classroom


The program offers a modular experience. Teachers can use different videos and then turn to the handbook that provides different methods for discussion to activities that could be used with any of the videos. This means the resource could work well for debate lessons in English, to explore social norms in Civics, understand how to manage social media in Digital Tech or be shared with parents and others in broader school community online safety discussions. IN REAL LIFE is versatile and gives us all an insight into where the issue really are for young people today.

Overall, IN REAL LIFE is a health and well-being tool.

It comes from a position of respect for young people and a desire to help them in navigating their daily challenges. The videos don’t provide all the answers because young people know there are no easy answers to technology, human relationships and access to the world of knowledge and connections offered to them by the internet. They appreciate the complexity and nuance of using social media and inhabiting online communities.

What they are telling us though is that we are not defining their problems very well and they need support, but want adults to listen to their issues and help them by starting there. IN REAL LIFE is designed to help teachers do this.

Through the support eSafety’s Online Safety Education Grants we have been able to involve 25 teachers, over 100 young people and a host of designers and developers to help us in this reimagining of online safety education. 

This project has been made possible thanks to funding from the eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman - Grant - we deeply appreciate their support, as well as the incredible co-research team at the Young and Resilient Research Centre .

If you would like to participate in a free Pilot Program of IN REAL LIFE and explore how you can reimagine online safety in your school and get the most out of the resource, register your interest in PROJECT ROCKIT Digital .

Want to see more about In Real Life? Check out these other articles written by IRL Creative Advisors and resources to learn more:
More blogs written by IRL Creative Advisors:

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