Online vs face-to-face communication

Time to complete Online vs face-to-face communication: 60 min

Year level: 4


Students explore different kinds of online communication and face-to-face communication and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Learning focus

Strategies for seeking, giving and denying permission are rehearsed and refined, and situations where permission is required are described, for example:

  • exploring actions they can take when they or others are unsafe, such as saying no, leaving the situation and reporting the incident.

  • discussing how to use strategies in situations in which someone posts an embarrassing picture online without permission.

Key understandings

enlightenedBoth face-to-face/in-person and online communication have positives and challenges.

enlightenedThere are times when one form of communication may be more appropriate than others.

enlightenedThere are people and places we can go to if we need help and information about about safe communication online.


General capabilities

No General Capabilities values have been selected.

Health and physical education(P)

Personal, social and community health

This strand will develop students' knowledge, understanding and skills to support a positive sense of self, to effectively respond to life events and transitions and to engage in their learning. Effective communication, decision-making and goal-setting skills are integral to this strand as they help to establish and maintain relationships in family, school, peer group and community settings, support healthy and safer behaviours, and enable advocacy. Students will source and examine a range of health information, products, services and policies, and evaluate their impact on individual and community health and safety.

Relationships and sexuality


Blooms revised taxonomy

No Blooms values have been selected.

Inquiry learning phase

No Inquiry Learning phase values have been selected.

Related items

Teaching resource (download) FAQs

Before you get started

  • It is important to remember that students or people close to them may have had personal traumatic experiences relating to image sharing, online bullying, harassment and abuse.  

  • Read Background teacher notes:

  • Read Essential  information:

    • Protective interrupting - All staff in the room need to know and understand how to use this technique to prevent students from potentially disclosing sensitive information or abuse in front of other students.

    • Dealing with disclosures - All staff in the room must be aware of the school and legal procedures if a student discloses personal issues, particularly disclosures of sexual abuse.

Learning activities

Communication image sorting

Time to complete Communication image sorting: 10 min

  1. Show slide 2 of Teaching Resource: Online vs face-to-face communication PowerPoint

  2. laugh Ask:

❓ What do all of these images have in common?

(all communicating in some way - speaking, talking, listening etc)

  1. Show slide 3 of Teaching Resource: Online vs face-to-face communication PowerPoint.

  2. Teaching strategy: Guess my category. Start to move the images into two groups and ask the students to raise their hand when they think they know the categories.

(using technology and not using technology; or online and face-to-face/in-person)

  1. laugh Ask:

 What are some different forms of communicate online or with technology that are not in these images?

(text, SnapChat, social media, voice recording, emojis, FaceTime, video messages, like/comment on social media posts, DM - direct message, email, etc)

Positives and challenges

Time to complete Positives and challenges: 20 min

  1. Grouping strategy: Fruits Divide the class into small groups by giving them a communication form (Snap Chat, phone, FaceTime, text, email, social media etc). 

  2. Show slide 4 of Teaching Resource: Online vs face-to-face communication PowerPoint.

  3. Give each group a piece of butcher's paper and some markers or on devices. Ask them to divide the page into the following sections. You may wish to clarify that face-to-face means people in the same room as opposed to video chat.




Text only

Possible answers: quick, easy, talk to people all over the world, talk to multiple people at once in a group chat, records information so people can look at it again without having to ask (e.g. party details), etc

Possible answers: no non-verbal cues, no body language, not as warm or personal, can be permanently recorded, easier for people to be mean or bully, can misunderstand text, typos, message wrong person, etc


Possible answers: quick, easy, fun, creates memories, share to people all over the world, share to multiple people at once in a group chat, can help add meaning to text to make it easier to understand (e.g pic of a place you would like to go on school holidays), etc

Possible answers: share to wrong person, someone you don't want to see a pic might see it, people share an embarrassing pic online, can permanently record a pic, can be shared without consent, etc


Possible answers: quick, easy, share to people all over the world, share to multiple people at once in a group chat, can be watched when you feel like it and watched multiple times, etc

Possible answers: share to wrong person, someone you don't want to see a video might see it, people share an embarrassing video online without consent, can permanently record a video, might show things in background of video that is embarrassing (e.g. your dirty clothes on the floor) or unsafe (e.g. your school uniform/name), etc


Possible answers: can give smiles, hugs, nods, non-verbal cues, body language, warm, personal, etc)

Possible answers: might not be able to see a person who lives far away or if they are unwell, have to plan time and place to meet, no transport to get to them, etc


  1. Have students develop their ideas under these four headings and then discuss responses and clarify any misconceptions.

Body language

Time to complete Body language: 10 min

  1. laughExplain:

"Body language, facial expressions and tone play an important part of communication. We don't get these through text communication.

This can mean that our messages can be misunderstood and can cause problems."

  1. Show slide 5 of Teaching Resource: Online vs face-to-face communication PowerPoint - examples of text messages.

  2. Allocate one text message to each group and ask them to come up with at least 3 different ways to 'read' the message using different body language, facial expressions and/or tone. (e.g. sarcastic, sincere, annoyed, happy, etc).

  3. laughDiscuss:

How can we tell if someone is being sincere or sarcastic in text?

How can we tell their tone?

If we chatting to someone in a game online that we don't know in real life, how can we tell if they are the same age as us?

Do things like emojis help?

Upsetting communication online

Time to complete Upsetting communication online: 10 min

  1. laughExplain:

"Sometimes we can misunderstand what someone has tried to say, particularly when it is online. Sometimes people can be mean or hurtful on purpose. It can be easier for someone to be mean or hurtful online." 

  1. laughAsk:

Why do you think it is easier for someone to say mean things online?

(they don't have to see the person, they might be in a bad mood and say something when they are mad - it's easy to quickly send a message, they can 'hide behind the keyboard', they can pretend to be someone else online, etc).

Why is it easy for someone to pretend to be someone else online?

(they can use a fake profile, they can use a different pic, they might not have a pic or video, etc)

  1. laugh Explain:

"It is not ok:

  • for someone to bully you online (just like bullying in-person is not ok)

  • for someone to pretend to be someone else online for hurtful reasons

  • for someone to share photos/videos/information about you online without your consent.

There are people and places you can go for help if this happens."   

  1. laugh Ask:

❓ What could you do if you noticed someone bullying a classmate in a group chat?

(tell a parent or trusted adult, tell that person it is not ok, block the person from the group chat, as the classmate if they are ok, etc)

What could you do if a someone shared a picture of you without consent?

(ask them to take it down/delete it/unsend it, report it on the app it is shared on, report it to eSafety Commissioner, tell a trusted adult, etc)

What could you do if you thought someone was pretending to be someone else online?

(don't share any personal information, don't accept free gifts/favours/game credits, stop chatting to them, tell a trusted adult, etc)

Reflection - which mode is best?

Time to complete Reflection - which mode is best?: 10 min

  1. Show slide 6 of Teaching Resource: Online vs face-to-face communication PowerPoint  - scenarios.

  2. Work through each of the scenarios and ask the students:

What form of communication is best? Why?

  1. laugh Ask:

List 5 people or places (one for each finger on your hand) you could go to for help if any of these things happened to you or a friend.

yes Teaching tip: It is important not to list the people for the students as each person's 'safe people' may be different. This may be an activity the students have done in protective behaviours lessons in lower years. 

It is ok to offer reliable and safe places for students to add to their list of 5.

For example,

eSafety Commissioner (can report image-based abuse, harassment, etc),

Kids Helpline (24 hour free helpline)

school leaders and health team (e.g. deputy principal, counsellor, psychologist).