‘Toxic’: Hidden trend targeting young Aussies

Studies show algorithms used by social media platforms are amplifying extreme misogynistic content. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Tim Pascoe

Shocking new research revealing how quickly young people can be exposed to extreme misogynistic content online has sparked a new national campaign urging parents to take more notice of what kids are consuming on social media.

The federal government launched a new phase of the Stop It at the Start campaign on Monday, which aims to inform parents and carers about the deluge of harmful content targeting young men and teenagers, and its link to future domestic violemce.

It follows a $40 million sexual consent campaign rolled out in May that aims to address the staggering rates of sexual violence seen across Australia.

A new campaign, called The Hidden Trends of Disrespect, includes an interactive online tool that simulates the average young person’s social media feed to show adults how rapidly young people can become exposed to chauvinistic ideas.

A new interactive tool simulates an average young person's social media feed to show the extent of which they are exposed to online harms. Picture: Supplied/Department of Social Services.

The government has developed conversation guides to show parents how to have productive discussions with young people about sort of content what they could risk being exposed to online.

A new national advertisement asking parents whether they know the online influences targeting their children will also be aired across television, social media channels and in cinemas.

Research published in February found that toxic, hateful and misogynistic content has been “pushed” to young people through social media algorithms at a rapidly increasing rate.

Compared to other popular websites, it identified Tik Tok as showing viewers four times as more videos relating to the objectification, sexual harassment or discrimination of women.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said parents are often unaware of how dangerous content online can be linked to violence against women.

“New research shows there is a growing echo chamber of disrespect online with influencers targeting young boys with misogynistic content,” Ms Rishworth said.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said influencers are targeting young boys with misogynistic content. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

“Parents and other adults with young people in their lives can’t always know everything that kids are seeing online, but we can take steps to educate ourselves on what they are seeing and hearing and help young people to recognise and deal with harmful online content.”

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said there was no “one-size-fits-all” solution to curbing gendered violence but said identifying problematic attitudes would be key to reducing harm.

“Research and the experience of frontline workers and community leaders shows that action is needed at every level of society to prevent men’s violence against women and drive meaningful change,” she said.

The Stop it at the Start campaign will be shown across television, online video, social media and cinema until May 2025. Picture: Supplied/Department of Social Services.

Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Justine Elliot said it was vital to counter-influence “corrosive” online content.

“The Stop it at the Start campaign has had a positive impact since its launch in 2016, and this new phase, which addresses the harmful misogyny occurring both online and offline, is a critical and timely evolution.”

The campaign’s launch follows a snap national cabinet meeting convened by the federal government in May which reignited a heated debate around women’s safety.

It led to a proposed crackdown on youth social media use, which saw both major parties flag support for an age verification scheme to block people from under 16 owning a social media account.