Cyber bullying is becoming an increasing problem in Australia. Not only for school children, but indeed across the spectrum of the business, entertainment, political and church world. Famously, TV Personality Charlotte Dawson was hospitalised due to the bullying she got on twitter. You can read her story here. NRL Star Robbie Farah was also bullied on Twitter over the death of his mother. You can read his story and the story of Ray Hadley being bullied here.
The Federal and State Governments need to work together to weed out the nameless, faceless trolls who hide gutlessly behind anonymous user names, and spew forth their hatred without any concern for the damage they are causing to the adult and child population alike.
I personally have been the victim of cyber bullying, multiple times and at one stage felt so threatened, that I went to the Nowra Police over the incident.
Cyberbullying is bullying that is done through the use of technology, For example, using the Internet, a mobile phone or a camera to hurt or embarrass someone. It can be shared widely with a lot of people quickly, which is why it is so dangerous and hurtful.
Bullying in any form is never ok. If you are being bullied – you need to tell someone. I have given you a list of people or organisations you can contact at the end of this blog, if you are the victim of bullying.
Here is a story, one of my Facebook friends shared with me just recently. I share it here with her permission.
My daughter has been cutting since March 2012 as well as suicidal thoughts. I only found out in August, even though others knew it was going on. There were some disturbing status updates but I wasn’t aware of anything else. I have since discovered Tumblr, where an anonymous post was put on her page telling her she’s fat, ugly, has no friends, everyone hated her and she’s better off dead. I also discovered self harm and suicidal pics and posts on Instagram, as well as strange people following her who glorified suicide.
She is going to Headspace in Nowra as well as seeing the school counsellor.
Unfortunately the Web is hard to control
We are in unchartered territory. Our children are trying to find their worth through a faceless entity that doesn’t care what damage is done…the more dramatic the better. It is only going to get worse so I hope you can get the message across.
I watched a documentary on youth suicide and felt like the mother was telling my story. The people who were bullying my daughter had no idea, but we are so thankful we found out before it was too late.
My daughter has a compassionate heart that seems to draw those who need help, unfortunately these are the same people who get the knives out…usually using social media…it breaks my heart.
Here is another story off the ABC news Website where a mother speaks about her daughter’s suicide.
Teen’s death highlights cyber bullying trend
Thea Dikeos for the 7.30 Report
Updated Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:26am AEST
A Melbourne mother has blamed her 14-year-old daughter’s suicide on the internet and the tragic case has highlighted the problem of cyber bullying among young people.
In Australia, one of the first comprehensive studies of cyber bullying shows about 10 per cent of teenagers and children have experienced some form of sustained bullying using technology.
It is a behaviour that can have tragic consequences.
Speaking on Melbourne radio, mother Karen Rae is in no doubt that cyber bullying was responsible for the death of her 14-year-old daughter.
“Friday night she was on the internet and told me about some message that had come through, and she wanted to die because of the message,” Ms Rae said.
“I laid in bed with her in my bed and we discussed it for about an hour and she left me fairly happy. I can guarantee you if she didn’t go on the internet Friday night she’d be alive today.”
The girl’s death has devastated her family and friends and has dramatically brought to the fore the impact of cyber bullying.
Professor Donna Cross from Edith Cowan University has completed a landmark study on cyber bullying, commissioned by the Federal Government.
Professor Cross describes cyber bullying as “any bullying behaviour that is delivered through technology – through mobile phones or over the internet”.
She says kids who have been bullied are much more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
“We know that probably the most significant effects on children who’ve been bullied are effects on their mental health,” she said.
“They’re much more likely to feel depressed, anxious, their self-esteem is affected, there are some students that report suicide ideation; it has very serious immediate effects and long-term effects.”
Twenty-thousand Australian school children were surveyed using a combination of anonymous questionnaires and interviews.
According to the survey conducted by Professor Cross, about 10 per cent of young people reported they were being cyber bullied.
‘Chain of abuse’
One of those young people who has been the target of cyber bullying is Tom Wood.
“I was involved in a lot of forums and websites on the net and one of them had members that wanted to abuse others just to get reactions,” he said.
“I tried to stand up to him one day and it just started a chain of continuous abuse and threats.”
Mr Wood had no idea how to respond to the abuse that was being directed at him online.
He recalls the experience from a few years ago and how difficult it was to speak up about what was happening.
“For a while I didn’t know and I didn’t react and stop it, instead my thoughts were it wasn’t worth telling my parents,” he said.
“It would have just alarmed them; they wouldn’t have any idea of what to do, so I thought I’d just keep retaliating and not put up with it.
“But after a while I realised all it did was make it get worse and kept provoking the situation, so at the end I just decided not to respond and after a while I didn’t get any abuse any more and it just stopped it, simple as that.”
Since his experience, Mr Wood has become an activist speaking in schools about tackling cyber bulling.
He says the internet is a positive and important social tool for young people and just switching off the computer in order to deal with cyber bullying is not a realistic option.
“I usually tell them not to respond to the bully but try to block and delete them,” he said.
“Save the evidence and report the abuse to the administrator, because most of the time that will effectively stop it.”
Not taken seriously?
But for Professor Cross, one of the biggest problems identified by her research is that young people do not think adults take cyber bullying seriously.
“The young people would say the greatest harm is that they feel they can’t tell anybody, that covert bullying is something that adults would think isn’t that serious,” she said.
“Having a rumour spread about you, does that really hurt you? Young people would say, yes, it does, it hurts us enormously, it hurts our reputation, our sense of popularity, and as a result it really can do some harm to us socially, emotionally and mentally.”
And what many cyber bullies do not realise is that the abuse which may be meted out over the net or mobile phone may well put them not just outside acceptable social norms but also the law.
Lawyer James Newman says the act of cyber bullying could result in criminal charges.
“There can be offences against the Commonwealth Crimes Act for things all the way from threats to kill down to simply harassment,” he said.
“If that harassment, threats to injure, threats to kill occur over telecommunications equipment, those students can be exposing themselves to criminal charges.”
There are now calls for parents, schools and children to act together to combat the growing problem of cyber bullying.
“The group that has the greatest opportunity to change this behaviour are peers – we need young people to say, ‘we don’t want to tolerate this behaviour’,” Professor Cross said.
From the Website boystown.com.au, here is a list of statistics related to bullying. (cyber and otherwise)
Here is why bullying, and policies and strategies to combat it, are such a high priority for communities and governments.
One student in every four in Australian schools is affected by bullying, says recent research commissioned by the Federal Government.
An estimated 200 million children and youth around the world are being bullied by their peers, according to the 2007 Kandersteg Declaration Against Bullying in Children and Youth.
Kids who are bullied are three times more likely to show depressive symptoms, says the Centre for Adolescent Health.
Children who were bullied were up to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, say some studies.
Girls who were victims of bullying in their early primary school years were more likely to remain victims as they got older, according to British research.
Children who were frequently bullied by their peers were more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in their early adolescence, says more UK research.
Girls were much more likely than boys to be victims of both cyber and traditional bullying, says a recent Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study.
Children as young as three can become victims of bullying, says Canadian research.
Young people who bully have a one in four chance of having a criminal record by the age of 30.
Bullying is the fourth most common reason young people seek help from children’s help services.
Why is cyberbullying so bad?
A lot of people can view or take part in it
It is often done in secret with the bully hiding who they are by creating false profiles or names, or sending anonymous messages
It is difficult to remove as it is shared online so it can be recorded and saved in different places
It is hard for the person being bullied to escape if they use technology often
The content (photos, texts, videos) can be shared with a lot of people
This content may also be easy to find by searching on a web browser like Google.
What does cyberbullying look like?
From the reachout.com.au website
Being sent mean or hurtful text messages from someone you know or even someone you don’t know
Getting nasty, threatening or hurtful messages through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, or through sites where people can ask / answer questions like Formspring or internet forums
People sending photos and videos of you to others to try and embarrass or hurt you
People spreading rumours about you via emails or social networking sites or text messages
People trying to stop you from communicating with others
People stealing your passwords or getting into your accounts and changing the information there
People setting up fake profiles pretending to be you, or posting messages or status updates from your accounts
How it can affect people
Feeling guilty like it is your fault
Feeling hopeless and stuck like you can’t get out of the situation
Feeling alone, like there is no one to help you
Feeling like you don’t fit in with the cool group
Feeling depressed and rejected by your friends and other groups of people
Feeling unsafe and afraid
Stressed out wondering what to do and why this is happening to you
Rights that could be violated by bullying
Your right to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence. Bullying is a form of violence. You have a right to be in a supportive environment (be that at school, work or online) that is respectful, safe and free from violence.
Your right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Bullying can cause physical injuries, depression and other health issues.
Your right to survival and development. Bullying can have serious impact on your physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Your right to work and have a fair and safe workplace. Bullying at work can lead to physical and mental stress and depression. It can stop you being able to do your job well and cause you to need increased days off work.
Your right to leisure and play. Bullying that occurs in places you play and socialise such as at school and on social networking sites and can impact on your ability to relax and enjoy different activities.
Your right to education. Bullying at school can make you feel unsafe and unwelcome. It can impact on your concentration and your mental and physical health. This may affect how well you do at school.
Your right to participate and have your voice heard. Bullying can make you feel unsafe and prevent you from expressing your feelings and opinions. You have the right to express your views, to have your concerns taken seriously and to participate in decisions that directly affect you.
Your right to privacy. Bullying, in particular cyberbullying can make things that are personal public. You have a right to have your privacy respected by others.
If you are being bullied, tell someone. Don’t go through it alone. Tell your parents, tell your school counsellor or school chaplain, tell your minister if you are part of church or contact an organisation like Headspace: Headspace website is here
Bullying in any form is never ok.
I hope this helps you if you are being bullied or helps you to help someone who is.