For many people living in remote Aboriginal communities, mobile devices are the sole means of accessing the internet.
However, when the use of mobile devices oversteps social and cultural lines, it can have serious consequences for individuals and their families.
Swinburne University’s research into online risks, carried out in central Australia and Cape York, revealed unique problems in remote communities, many of which are caused by the sharing of devices.
Unauthorised use of others’ social media accounts, flirting through dating sites or cyber-bullying incidents can exacerbate inter-family tensions or escalate into community violence.
Individual protective measures against device theft and account hacking can also be damaging to kinship relationships when traditional routines of exchange and sharing practices are disrupted.
As a result, some community leaders and groups are experimenting with extraordinary measures, including switching off public Wi-Fi hotspots or refusing mobile infrastructure altogether.
The researchers say that while the advent of mobile telephony in remote areas may be creating new problems, mobile phones and internet access are important.
However, while simple security measures can make a big difference, they are not always failsafe.
“We found that the term “cyber safety” is not necessarily recognised in remote communities,” researchers say.
“Instead, the word for ‘protection’ is favoured, which suggests a far more pro-active set of behaviours, including a social obligation to watch out not only for oneself but for the entire social and family group as well.”
You can read more about the issues raised by this research here. Story credit: Swinburne University newsroom.
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