In Cyber Bullying, Cyber Safety

Cyberbullying and Australia– A Guide

Cyberbullying isn’t just a fad- it’s become a way of life. No longer do bullies wait until you get to school or work to torment you, they disturb you in your home, during dinner, while you sleep and even while you drive. You are unable to find safety as this type of abuse lasts all day, every day with no end in sight—unless you take a stand.

Ask Yourself

If you find yourself asking “What is cyberbullying?”, answer the following questions to determine if you’ve ever been bullied in cyberspace:

  • Have you ever received a threatening text, e-mail, phone call or instant message?
  • Has anyone ever posted private or personal information about you on a social media site?
  • Have you been afraid to read your text messages?
  • Has anyone posted an unflattering video of you to the internet?
  • Have you avoided opening e-mails to stop reading harsh words?
  • Has someone spread rumors about you through e-mail, text or social media?
  • Have you ever been excluded from a social media group or “unfriended” by someone?
  • Has someone impersonated you online?
  • Have you lost friends because of cliques formed through group texts or social media?
  • Has someone forwarded your messages to others in an attempt to get them to choose “sides”?
  • Have you been “tagged” inappropriately in a photo on social media?
  • Has anyone refused to remove a photograph or posting of you from social media?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have been the victim of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying Defined

Using information or communication technology, such as computers and cell phones, to repeatedly perform negative and hostile actions with the sole purpose of hurting others is one way to define cyberbullying. The cyber bullying can also occur through gaming systems that accept written or vocal communication. Cyberbullying is a way to control, manipulate and dominate others. It is focused on destroying the feelings of others, while building a false-sense of authority in the bully.

Cyberbullying Facts

According to the Federal government, one quarter of Australian students have been victims of bullying. Cyberbullying is on the rise with one out of every 10 children dealing with this electronic torture. Throughout the world, approximately 200 million children and adolescents are being cyber bullied.

According to the Queensland Government, most people, approximately 83 percent of victims, know their attackers. Approximately 25 percent of cyberbullying attacks were between people who do not know each other.

Most people are bullied by others their own age, their peers. However, cyberbullying at the workplace also exists between people of different ages. During school-aged years, cyberbullying targets girls more frequently than boys and is often done by someone who claims to be a friend. It can begin as early as the age of three, but is more prevalent among those aged 14 to 17.

Between the ages of 14 and 17, many teenagers distance themselves from their parents and parents may give too much electronic freedom. Teenagers may have computers in their rooms and these computers are not monitored. As a parent, try to monitor text messages, e-mails and social media posts. Your child may think you are being nosey and intrusive, but the more information you have, the better you can protect your child.

The Queensland Government reports that 54 percent of teenagers ages 12 to 17 are concerned that their personal information will be hacked and stolen. 40 percent of these adolescents are anxious over the thought of receiving threatening or disturbing e-mails, messages or comments on social media. Another 35 percent fret over others thoughts regarding their personal information on social media sites.

Cyberbully

A cyberbully targets one, or more, people with the intent of making that person’s life miserable. The bully is no different than the playground bully of the past, except the cyberbully has many more weapons in his arsenal. He can bother you anywhere by sending a hurtful text message. The messages can be anything from telling you how terrible you look to threatening physical harm. The bully may spread rumors and lies about you or provoke you with teasing. If the bully does this in person, he is most likely to also bully in cyberspace.

The bully attempts to knock down others by hurting their self-esteem. He lacks self-confidence, is threatened by the assuredness of others, so he does not want anyone else to feel confident. The messages and postings sent by the bully can be very difficult to erase or delete, which gives him a feeling of superiority and power. He tries to manipulate the actions of others so he can succeed in school or at work.

The anonymousness of hiding behind a computer, cell phone or gaming system is part of what gives the bully a feeling of power. He doesn’t have to personally confront anyone, or risk an injury by getting into a physical altercation. He is safe on the other side of the computer or cell phone screen. Once exposed, the bully may back down, or turn his attacks on someone else. It is important to expose his behavior so the years of potential abuse are lessened.

One of the issues with cyberbullying is that you can’t know with 100 percent certainty who is on the other end of the phone, computer or gaming system. The bully may be impersonating someone else, so in essence is bully you and the one he is impersonating. Many social media profiles are fake. The names, pictures and stories are not real and these sites are not verified, so false profiles are plenty.

You or your child may think you know who the bully is, but until you know for certain, it is important to collect all the evidence. Avoid contact with the bully and do not respond in an effort to obtain more evidence, but keep copies of the texts, e-mails and postings so the proper authorities can determine who the bully is and the consequences for his actions.

Results

Different people respond in different ways to cyber attacks. The effects of cyberbullying can vary from depression and low self-esteem to suicidal thoughts and psychotic symptoms. The repeated bashing from the bully every hour of every day can wear down even the strongest person. If you or your child are the victim of a cyberbully, it is important to stop the abuse as soon as possible to limit the lasting emotional and psychological damage.

If you suspect your child is being cyberbullied, listen for cyberbullying stories, even if they are told in fun. Your child may be using laughter as a self-defense when she tells you that Ann and Marie are no longer her friends because of a text that Jo sent. You may be quick to disregard this as typical, teenage behavior, but your daughter may be using this as a way to gage your reaction. She is also seeking advice.

Let go of your own hesitation to use cyber-media and get involved. Learn the ins and outs of social media web-sites, so you can protect your family. Talk to other family members, teachers and coaches to learn if your child has spoken with them about the bullying situation. Rely on trusted friends, family or clergy to help you make an informed decision.

Your child may not give you the slightest hint that he is being bullied. Instead, look for signs of bullying such as:

  • Feelings of depression, sadness or anger
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • A drop in academic performance
  • Changes in friends
  • Lack of motivation for after-school activities
  • Appearing lonely or anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Change in eating
  • A decline in health
  • Low self-esteem
  • Evidence of drug or alcohol use

Cyberbullying Laws

If/when you discover your child is the victim of cyberbullying, remain calm and comfort your child. Encourage your child to tell you the whole story, from the beginning and give you any texts, e-mails or postings that the bully sent. Make copies of the evidence and keep it in a place where your child does not have to see it on a regular basis. In other words, these are not papers for the refrigerator door. Reassure your child that you will not isolate him from electronic contact. Many teens do not tell their parents of cyberbullying for fear they will be “cut off” from the social media world.

If the cyberbully is a peer or classmate:

  • If the situation is life-threatening, call 000 immediately.
  • Collect the facts- save any texts, e-mails, chats or messages.
  • Present your evidence to the school system- or to a liason police officer if available.
  • Review the school’s policy on bullying and make sure that you agree with the consequences.
  • Consider counseling for your child.
  • Don’t encourage your child to fight bullying with bullying.
  • Avoid talking to other parents about the situation. (You don’t want to post your experience on social media for fear that you turn into the cyberbully.)
  • Remind your child to NOT REPLY to any contact from the cyberbully. Hopefully, that will stop the attacks.
  • Contact the web-site administrators to remove any unwelcome postings, videos, images or tags.
  • Report the bullying to the web-site.
  • Block the bully from the phone, e-mail, social media or gaming system.
  • Contact your phone carrier to track all contact from the bully.
  • If the school system does not properly handle the situation, contact your local authorities.

Sometimes a cyberbully is anonymous. The bully may randomly attack your child’s social media page or e-mail. Your child’s cell phone number may accidently get sent to a bully and the attacks begin. Or, your child may inadvertently send their information across a chat room or message board.

If the cyberbully is not a classmate:

  • If the situation is life-threatening, call 000 immediately.
  • Collect the facts- save any texts, e-mails, chats or messages.
  • Present your evidence to the local law enforcement.
  • Talk to a lawyer about your options for personal protection orders.
  • Consider counseling for your child.
  • Don’t encourage your child to fight bullying with bullying.
  • Avoid talking to other parents about the situation. (You don’t want to post your experience on social media for fear that you turn into the cyberbully.)
  • Remind your child to NOT REPLY to any contact from the cyberbully. Hopefully, that will stop the attacks.
  • Contact the web-site administrators to remove any unwelcome postings, videos, images or tags.
  • Report the bullying to the web-site.
  • Block the bully from the phone, e-mail, social media or gaming system.
  • Contact your phone carrier to track all contact from the bully.

The Australian Government supports cyber safety and works with the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) to protect electronic communications. ACMA suggest the following to lessen the chances of cyberbullying and protect your child on social media sites:

  • Do not use your last name.
  • Remove the name of your home town.
  • Do not post risqué pictures.
  • Do not friend anyone who makes you uncomfortable.
  • Avoid posting your phone number.
  • Keep your settings private.

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