The Telethon Kids Institute is one of the largest, and most successful medical research institutes in Australia, comprising of a dedicated and diverse team of more than 500 staff and students.

Established in 1990 by Founding Director Professor Fiona Stanley, the Institute was among the first to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to major health issues: clinical research, laboratory sciences and epidemiologists all under one roof, to tackle complex diseases and issues in a number of ways.

Research at Telethon Kids is grouped around our four Research Focus Areas:

  • Aboriginal Health
  • Brain & Behaviour
  • Chronic Diseases of Childhood
  • Early Environment

The Cyber Savvy project is led by Professor Donna Cross and her research colleagues at the Telethon Kids Institute and the University of Western Australia. This comprehensive research project is being conducted over three years with funding from Healthway, the Telethon Perth Children’s Hospital Fund and the Department of Education.


While the use of information communications technology (ICT) such as the Internet and mobile devices provide many positive outcomes such as opportunities for education and social interaction, for young people it has also led to greater increases in potential legal, academic, mental, social and health-related harms. An online behaviour of significant concern to the community involves young people sending inappropriate images using technology. 

The consequences of sending inappropriate images includes leaving an online digital trail that might affect future opportunities such as employment and relationships; the opportunities for blackmailing if a relationship ends abruptly; humiliation if the image is spread or sent to the “wrong hands”; and the resulting emotional trauma including depression.

Very limited research is currently available to support legislators, policy makers, schools, families and other young people to help prevent or deal effectively with inappropriate image sharing behaviour.  Accordingly this study is focussed on improving what we know about helping young people deal more safely and effectively with this behaviour. This research will be conducted with young people rather than on young people, as they know better than any adult what is occurring among people their age in cyber space, and are also more able to recognise and propose what recommendations will be acceptable, feasible for and ‘doable’ by young people.  

Hence, in-depth evidence highly informed by young people will be sought via a two-day student summit and follow-up interviews and surveys to develop and test an online resource that will enable families, schools and other adults working with young people to respond more effectively to reduce the harms related to inappropriate image sharing. This study will also bring the recommendations from young people to policy makers, who rarely actively engage with the children and youth for whom they design policy and programs.