Cyberbullying is by far one of the most terrifying things a young person can go through. IN some cases, it can be much more extreme than regular bullying and has led thousands of young adults in Australia to take their lives. However, there are laws on Cyberbullying which can help protect an individual against someone trying to attack them.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the newest form of bullying in society today. In this social media crazed world it is becoming acceptable for bullying to go beyond the school yard and now follow children home. Children and teenagers can be harassed constantly by real life bullies or internet “trolls” who are simply looking to hurt someone.
As Cyberbullying becomes a popular form of torture, more and more statistics come out about how a person may be affected. Some of the most shocking statistics include:
- 1 in 4 Australian students will experience some form of cyber bullying
- Students cyberbullied are 9 times more likely to develop suicidal thoughts
- Bullying (cyber and non-cyber) is the fourth most popular reason that children help services are used in Australia
- Girls are more likely to become targets of cyber bullies than boys are
- 1 in 4 cyber bullies will have some kind of criminal record by the time they are 30
- Kids who are bullied are four times more likely to have symptoms of depression
- Worldwide, approximately 200 million children and teens have been victims of cyber bullies
Is You Child Being Cyberbullied?
Telling if a child is being cyber bullied is extremely difficult. Oftentimes this type of bullying is easier for a child to hide than traditional bullying. A child can delete messages, hide accounts, and easily pretend to their parents that everything is fine. It is especially difficult to find out if a child is being cyberbullied because friends may not know. With traditional schoolyard bullying, friends can alert parents or school authorities or inappropriate behavior. However, on the internet, where bullies are oftentimes strangers, a child who doesn’t actively reach out for help is a child in danger of things such as depression and suicide.
However there are ways that a parent can make sure that their child is not being cyberbullied or catch the bullying early:
- Monitor Online Accounts: Collect a log of the accounts you child has along with the login information. This way you can easily see interactions between your child and their friends as well as strangers
- Read Messages: Sites like Facebook often have a private messaging system, which is where a lot of Cyberbullying takes place. As a parent, you can actually buy software that sends your child’s sent and received messages to your email however often you would like. By doing this you can keep a closer eye on what your child is saying and reading, even if they delete it from their account.
- Set Hours: Although older children should have more freedom when it comes to the internet, younger children should have boundaries in order to protect them. Try setting specific hours that your child can be online; this way they are not being constantly bombarded by negative material.
- Make A Central Computer Station: Children can get into a lot of trouble if left alone in a room with a laptop and internet connection. Try creating a work station in a main are of the house so you can easily see what your child is looking at and what sites they are visiting.
These are very simple ways that you can protect your child against Cyberbullying. Although they aren’t going to be necessarily 100% effective, they can cut down the possibility of your child becoming a target.
What Can A Child Do?
There are many times online when a child may feel harassed or attacked and simply not know what to do. Do they stop responding? Do they give a snarky response? Do they delete their account? There are many questions and some children are reluctant to ask their parents for help. Teach your kids some proper ways to handle online threats:
- Never share private information. This includes passwords, addresses, and phone numbers
- Don’t respond to messages when you are mad or hurt
- Report inappropriate or abusive behavior to the social media site you are using
- Keep your privacy options up to date on all your social media accounts
- Block and/or delete people who make you uncomfortable
- Log out if you feel harassed and ask for help from a trusted adult
Children who know simple tips like this are more likely to receive help to escape their bullies on the internet. They will be equipped with the knowledge of what to do if they are made to feel uncomfortable or harassed.
Cyberbullying Laws In Australia
Despite your best efforts, there is still the possibility that your child could become a victim of cyber bullies. Though this may alarm you there are Cyberbullying laws which can prosecute those who try and victimize children and teens.
In Australia cyber bullying becomes a crime when it involves stalking (consent messages and/or posting), harassment (rude, threatening, or inappropriate messages or posts), defamation, encouragement of suicide or suicidal thoughts, defamation (the spreading of lies about someone), and unauthorized access. Each of these crimes comes with different consequences depending on the territory but on average:
- Stalking is punishable to a maximum of 3 years in jail
- Harassment is punishable by maximum of 3 years in jail
- Unauthorized access is punishable by a maximum of 2 years in jail
- Defamation is punishable by a maximum of 3 years in jail
- Encouraging suicide is punishable by a maximum of life in prison
Although it can be difficult to catch a cyber bully, once you do, the consequences of their actions are severe. Punishments are decided by examining the age of the victim and defender, the event itself, and the types of crimes committed during the interactions. Those who are convicted of the crimes previously listed can easily be punished by 7-11 years of jail time. By reporting cyber bullying and reporting it to police, anyone can help to track down and punish cyber bullies.
Cyberbullying laws are very broad in Australia in order to punish all cyber bullies on a case by case basis. This gives everyone involved the ability to correctly present the situation and have an easier time correctly punishing an offender. However, it is important for parents to know the sign of Cyberbullying and how to deal with it, as well as the cyber bullying laws.