Cyberbullying has been repeatedly analysed, but its definition has often varied in different studies. Authorities on the topic agree that it is a widespread negative social phenomenon, not only in Australia, but worldwide. It is a type of unfair power play that can result in depression, problems at home, and school and on the job. Tragically, it can also sometimes result in suicide. So What is Cyber Bullying in Australia Like?
Australian researchers, Price and Dalgleish’s 2010 study on cyberbullying victims suggested that many of its victims stated a wide impact on emotional behaviour. For instance, 75% of the respondents felt sad, 54% spoke of feelings of extreme sadness. Additionally, 58% of research participants felt frustrated, 48% of them experienced embarrassment, and 48% experienced fear, including 29% who were terrified. 3% were contemplating suicide and 2% of them considered otherwise harming themselves due to cyberbullying (Price & Dalgleish, 2010).
What is Cyber Bullying?
Bullying, in general is a behavior that is repeated by a group or an individual with the express intention of hurting another group or individual either physically or psychologically. When the bully or bullies use technology, it becomes cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is illegal throughout Australia
A recent survey found Australia is the worst place for bullying over social networks. Each territory and state in Australia has different laws pertaining to cyber bullying. In New South Wales, a teenager used social media to make threats to his teachers and a schoolmate. That teen was legally prosecuted for his threats. Three years later, a young man in Western Australia posted a video online that made racial slurs and threats toward people of a particular religious and ethnic background. He was prosecuted under racial hate laws.
The victims of cyber bullying are accessible 24 hours a day. There is no time when emails, text messages, or other messages cannot be transmitted to them.
What is Cyber Bullying for Kids?
Perhaps the most tragic of all types of cyber bullying, is that aimed toward defenseless children. Children lack the same coping mechanisms as adults, and often suffer needlessly at the hands of cyber bullies. A 2005 article in the Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, suggests that cyber bullying occurs most frequently in late primary school and early high school. Because children are more vulnerable when they are online, they are often the unwitting targets for cyber bullies who prey on them in order to feel a sense of power over them. The consequences for the bullied child can be severe, causing guilt, extreme fear, loneliness, withdrawal and serious depression.
There is a kids helpline in Australia that offers help for children who are being cyber bullied. The number is:
1800 55 1800.
What are Cyber Bullying FACTS:
In Australia, telephone companies can suspend a person’s phone number for sending harassing text messages.
Most Australian websites have Terms and Conditions that do not allow cyber bullying from their online venues. Reporting harassers to the system administrators can lead to cyber bullies being banned from using the sites.
It is a crime in many Australian territories to publish untrue information about a person on the Internet with intent to cause them harm.
It is a crime under Australian national law for an unauthorised person to log into someone’s online accounts without that person’s permission. Maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment.
What Can Cyber Bullying do to People?
Cyber bullying can cause the bullied individual to become withdrawn, angry, anxious or tearful. The bullied person can appear to be generally distressed without identifying what is wrong. He or she can also seem especially lonely and reluctant to communicate. If you are a parent who wonders, “What can cyber bullying do to a person?” please note the following important information:
If parents notice a sudden, unexpected change in the dynamics of a child’s friendship group or less interaction with schoolmates, this might be due to cyber bullying.
The most important thing to watch for is the child that expresses suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, these thoughts manifest themselves subtly or in indirect ways. Appropriate action should be taken immediately if a child expresses suicidal thoughts for any reason. If the child is being cyber bullied, there is all the more reason to seek professional help without hesitation.
What are Cyber Bullying EXAMPLES
Cyber bullying can take many different forms. When it happens at school or occurs by one schoolmate toward another, parents should notify the school of the incidents. It can be helpful to learn what the school’s anti-bullying policies are and to talk to one’s children about how they can be proactive in their own defense.
Here are a few examples to illustrate the distress that the bullied child can experience:
What can Cyber Bullying Lead to:
A child accidentally loses control of his or her bladder at school. When he or she logs on to join a social network of his or her peers, the incident is being spoken about by older school children that make ruthless fun of the child. As the object of ridicule, the child experiences extreme stress and resists going to school the next day.
In 2009, a Victoria man copied pictures from a young girl’s Facebook profile and posted them on adult websites, using her name and contact details. Australian courts found him guilty of stalking and sentenced him to serve time in jail.
A child’s pants rip at school and another child takes a cell phone photo of the incident. The picture is widely circulated online among the child’s peers, with unkind captions written below. The child experiences shame and embarrassment and resists contact with his or her friends.
A child excels in school, repeatedly bringing home excellent scores. The cyber bully decides to chide the child online, accusing him or her of “kissing up” to the teachers. As a result, the child begins to feel intimidated and puts less effort into making good grades.
What can Cyber Bullying Do to You?
Cyber bullying can cause psychological trauma and in some cases, can lead to suicide. It is a crime under Australian law to cyber bully someone in a way that intentionally encourages or causes them to kill themselves. The maximum penalty for this offense is life imprisonment.
Cyber bullying can also cause great emotional pain and humiliation.
Price, M. & Dalgleish, J. 2009
What Can Be Done to Fight Cyber Bullying?
One of the first things that parents can do to protect their children from cyber bullying, is to do a careful assessment of the child’s online time and text message exchanges. The parents should continually ask the question, “What is cyber bullying?” and to take measures to understand the phenomenon. It can be helpful to install monitoring software on all electronic devices used by one’s children and to intervene when appropriate to do so.
Educating children about the dangers of sharing personal videos or photos online with individuals that are not their friends, is an imperative step in the prevention of cyber bullying. Talking to them openly and carefully, while answering questions such as, “What is cyber bullying?” so that they, too, will understand how they can help avoid cyber bullying from happening.
Either parents or other adults designated by the parents should follow their children on the various social media networks. This will enable the adults to stay in the loop about what the children are doing or saying and will provide ample opportunities for intervention before things spin out of hand.
Parents need to provide a safe haven within their exchanges with their children, so that the children will feel comfortable confiding in them if they do become the victims of cyber bullying. Children should be instructed to open up to their parents at the first signs that cyber bullying is occurring. Parents should instruct their children to share any messages that are received from cyber bullies. These messages should be saved by the parents in the event they may be used later on in a court of law, if necessary.
Finally, if a parent learns that his or her child is being cyber bullied, they should report the behavior to the social media site administrators where the posts are appearing, or contact the telephone company about any untoward text messages. If the texts persist, it might be a good idea to consider changing the child’s telephone number.
Should threats of violence occur, parents should report the threats to Australian law enforcement authorities. The same holds true for any type of child pornography or photos that contain any sexually explicit messages or images that were snapped where the child should expect privacy, such as a restroom.
Children are vulnerable and must understandably rely upon the protection of the adults in their lives. Parents must stand up for their children and protect them by fighting against cyber bullying. Teachers should be on the alert for any of the above-mentioned symptoms and take necessary steps to work with the parents to help stamp out cyber bullying altogether.