Cyberbullying Statistics in Australia, The Complete Guide

Bullying has always been around, and, whether it is done in the traditional way or on the Internet, approximately 200 million children worldwide have been subjected to it. And the majority of the kids who do the bullying – a full 80 percent of them – don’t care whether they do their bullying online or not, and have bullied their targets both ways. Bullies will find people they want to pick on and will bully them however they can. Cyberbullying statistics in Australia show this is true.

Letting these kids get away with bullying others is detrimental to a healthy society. It’s akin to nurturing a future criminal since young bullies have a one in four chance of getting arrested and ending up with a criminal record before they even turn 30. Addressing the issue now and finding ways to change the behaviour of bullies, perhaps through tougher laws, is key to creating a better future for current bullies and for their victims (and potential victims) and society as a whole.

Taking steps to help victims of bullying is equally important. Research shows that kids who are targets of bullies are three times more likely to have symptoms of depression, and almost nine times more likely to consider committing suicide, according to some studies. http://cyberbullying.us/

Children are not emotionally equipped to handle the cruelty and intimidation tactics. A study in the UK suggests that young kids who are subjected to bullying often are more likely to develop symptoms of psychosis in early adolescence. The most heartbreaking statistic is that children as young as 3 years old have been targeted by bullies, according to research done in Canada.

Cyberbullying Statistics in Australia

More than half the Australian kids between the ages of 12 and 17 surveyed in one study said they regularly worry that someone will hack into their profile page on a social networking site. More than one-third worry about what potential bullies and other people know about them from their social network pages, and 40 percent worry about getting more intimidating messages that will cause them to become upset. Kids who are cyberbullied don’t even feel safe in their own homes because they can receive upsetting messages wherever they are.

Recent studies on cyberbullying cases in Australia find that 1 in every 10 kids has been bullied online. And 84 percent of the kids who were bullied online were also bullied offline, so addressing both forms of bullying together makes sense.

In Australian schools, a study commissioned by the federal government found that one student in every four has been bullied either online or offline. These studies show that girls are more often victims of cyberbullying and traditional bullying than boys, according to a study by Murdock Children’s Research Institute.

The Australian Journal of Education reported the findings of the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study which shows that more than one-fourth (27 percent) of Australian school kids ages 8 to 14 years old reported being bullied frequently. This study focused primarily on discovering whether bullying was clustered in different schools based on school cultures or other factors. Findings suggest that bullying behaviour exists at essentially the same levels throughout Australian schools.

One survey found that one-fourth of the time kids who say they engage in cyberbullying target people they don’t even know, but most victims claim they know the bullies who target them and even once considered them friends. The Cyberbullying Research Center in the U.S. says cell phones are the most common medium used by cyberbullies because 80 percent of teens have them.

Surveys conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center also found that 50 percent of kids have been cyberbullied in some way and between 10 and 20 percent are subjected to cyberbullying on a regular basis. It affects all races. The most common form that cyberbullying takes, according to the surveys, is spreading rumours about the victim that is particularly cruel, intended to be hurtful, and are often untrue. Most victims of cyberbullying have low self-esteem and have suicidal thoughts.

Girls engage in cyberbullying as often as boys and are more likely to be cyberbully victims. In fact, 64 percent of girls surveyed have been cyberbullied. But while boys are cyberbullied less, those who are targeted by cyberbullies are threatened with physical harm more often than girls.

Cyberbullying statistics in Australia do not reflect the true depth of the problem, however, since they only take into account cyberbullying incidents that are reported. One American study reported on in the Journal of School Health states that 90 percent of cyberbully victims have never told an adult they were bullied online.

Boys Town in Australia conducted a study in 2009 of 548 kids who said they had been cyberbully victims, ranging in age from 5 to 25 years old. Just under half – 49 percent – were cyberbullied when they were 10 to 12 years old, while 52 percent between the ages of 13 and 14 were targeted, and one-third of the kids between the ages of 15 and 16, were cyberbullied. The vast majority of the participants in the Boys Town study, which was ultimately published in 2010, were female, which comprised 447 of the 548 kids, with boys accounting for only 101 of the study’s participants.

This study found that cyberbullies verbally attacked their prey via email, in online chat rooms, on social networking sites and on mobile phones. This study also found that the most common form of abuse took the form of name calling, spreading rumours, and making abusive comments. Other forms the bullying took were threats of physical harm, being ignored or excluded from group activities or socializing, slamming the victim’s opinions, impersonating the victim online, sending or posting photographs that were upsetting to the victim, and a final category of other instances that were least common. Boys Town created a chart to go along with its study that breaks down each of these forms of abuse according to age groups.

Emotional responses of those victimized by cyberbullies included sadness, anger, embarrassment, frustration and fear, with sadness and anger at the top. Online interventions were found to be the most effective way to cope with cyberbullying, with blocking the bully being the most effective strategy. More than 75 percent of the Boys Town kids studied tried online interventions including blocking, unfriending the cyberbully and changing information and access to their own account. Some kids tried telling an adult, confronting the bully, telling their friends, stopped looking at the site, on which they were being bullied, staying offline entirely, did nothing, and others took the opposite approach by retaliating against the cyberbully using some of the bully’s own tactics against him.

Also, interestingly, even though most victims of cyberbullying rarely resort to telling an adult, that strategy was rated as high as blocking in the degree of helpfulness achieved at 76 percent. Next was telling a friend at 68.5 percent.

All the studies and their cyberbullying statistics in Australia illustrate the traumatic impact of cyberbullying on both the bullies (because many end up as criminals) and the victims, who sometimes are affected so much that they go so far as to commit suicide. These findings show the harm that could be irreparable if cyberbullying is not taken seriously enough.

According to a simple search on Google, we have realized that Australia is the third most searching country for the term Cyberbullying. In one month, Google recorded 33400 searches for the term cyberbullying, not to mention traffic stemming from searches for terms such as bullying help, cyberbullying help, what is cyberbullying and cyberbullying statistics.

It is also important to know that in Australia, the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old which means that if someone is 10 years old or above, they could be held criminally responsible for their actions.

Statistics on Cyberbullying in Australia

  • According to Queensland Government (www.qld.gov.au), 91% of Australian teens aged 14-17 get on the Internet at least once a week, mainly to check social media sites like Facebook or to talk to their friends through emails or messaging.
  • Of those who reported being bullied, 83% said they were cyberbullied by people that they not only knew personally but who they considered to be their friends.
  • 40% of youths under the age of 18 worry about receiving hostile or demeaning texts, emails, or messages.

Cyberbullying is generally defined as bullying tactics used against an individual using the internet, cell phones or other technologies.

Cyberbullying differs from conventional bullying in that the harassment or torment is not done in the victim’s physical presence.

Cyberbullying facts provided by sites such as www.dosomething.com show us that cyberbullying is done virtually by means of social media sites, gaming sites, chat rooms and text messaging. Although there is no physical abuse involved, cyberbullying has proven to be just as emotionally damaging to victims as physical bullying. Many believe that cyberbullying is more emotionally damaging because the bully has unlimited access to their victims. One of the best ways to counteract cyberbullying is to educate yourself concerning cyberbullying facts.

So what are the most noted effects of cyberbullying, when it happens?

In a survey conducted by www.stopcyberbullying.org, victims of Cyberbullying responded in the following methods:

Thirty-six percent asked the bully to stop.

Thirty-four percent blocked communication.

Thirty-four percent talked to friends about the bullying.

Twenty-nine percent did nothing about the bullying.

Twenty-eight percent signed offline.

Only 11 percent of teens talked to parents about incidents of Cyberbullying.

Short Term Effects of Being Bullied

Kids that are bullied are more likely to skip school in an effort to avoid having to encounter their nemesis and experience the emotional, psychological and physical effects of being bullied. It is estimated that as many as 160,000 students skip school nationally on any given day out of fear of facing a bully that has, in some way, been terrorizing them.

Bullied kids are more likely to get sick. Children who are being bullied are more likely to report feeling sick with some common symptoms being sore throat, cough, headache, stomach ache, and stuffy nose. These symptoms are not psychologically manifested, they are very real repercussions produced psychosomatically.

Dr Adrienne Nishina, Assistant Professor of Human Development at UC Davis, explains this physiological process. “Research with youth and adults shows that negative social interactions are experienced as particularly stressful. Stress causes the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol impairs immune system functioning, leaving the individual more vulnerable and less able to combat physical illnesses.”

Bullied Teens are more likely to use alcohol as a coping mechanism which normally causes the teen to become more aggressive toward others. It is not uncommon for a child that was bullied in middle school or high school to ultimately become a bully later on in the academic process. Many kids that are bullies in college were bullied in middle school and high school.

Long Term Effects of Being Bullied

People who were bullied as children are more likely to develop psychological issues as adults. Children who were bullied from the 6th-9th grade are more likely to become depressed by the time they reach the age of 23. Also, people who have memories of being teased as a child are more likely to experience depression, pathological perfectionism, social anxiety, and a greater neurotic ism in their adult years.

People who were bullied during their childhood years are more likely to be bullied in the workplace. Unfortunately, many people who were victimized as children in a school environment often find themselves being victims of workplace bullying as well. If fact, nearly 60% of people that are bullied at work admit to having been bullied as a child.

Why should you be worried about Cyberbullying?

Because it has short and long term effects.

Because once anything is online, it is very hard to erase it or remove it.

Because with the advent of social media networks, any negative comment or post is widely shared among others in a matter of minutes which multiplies the negative effects on the victim in no time.

Can Cyberbullying be prevented or avoided?

Yes, it can, all you need to do is install kindness and good citizenship wherever you go, encourage your mates, friends, colleagues and community members to spread positive remarks and comments and not be a bystander when they see any cyberbullying act.

Do you think that Australia does have a real issue with Cyberbullying? Why not share this article on your social pages and ask your friends what they think? We’d love to hear from you. 

Learn more about Australia’s fight against Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is moving across the globe. It is a problem in every country but Australia is reported to be number 1 in cyberbullying. In the age of bullying, every game and television show seems to promote the extreme and if you are not perceived as a bully you are trampled in the rush to the finish line.

Cyber Space is not real it is a game where the consequences are not real but the people playing the game are real and for those who have the capacity to take a game to a real level it becomes bullying. Insults are thrown, false accusations are made and gossip is spread. This is society’s creation and only the social norm can stop cyberbullying in Australia.

Cyberbullying in Australia has a lot to do with age and income. The average age in Australia is around 37 years old and the income rates are near the amount of $80,000 dollars per year. This leaves lots of room for electronic devices and young people to spend time on the computer. It is seriously easy to tell a person to bug off if you are not looking at them in person. If there was a personal meeting, you might think of a better choice.

People take embarrassing photos and send them around the world, text messages go viral and people make up fake accounts and imitate you. On the Web, you can take on any form and people often do. People disburse gossip and people love to listen. You can only imagine how celebrities feel. Site managers have developed methods for blocking, logging off and choosing your friends but this is little consolation when someone gains access to your accounts and changes your password.

Cyber Space is very much like giving a stranger the keys to your house and hoping they do not go in. Australia is filled with young minds and young people enjoy the challenge of the Web no matter what the risk. Each peer group wants to be a part. Kids are harsh and to bully because it does not seem real bullying goes on.

For most people, until it is proven to them that there are real consequences to activity, consequences do not exist. It could be Australia has no consequences. It is difficult for a rich man to understand hunger even if he misses a meal by choice. Until consequences become a reality, any group with access to Cyber Space will continue bullying.

Games are played that encourage carjacking and stealing and the game offers rewards each time it is done. These games are on social media sites and they are very popular. In Cyber Space cyber, bullying is a game. It hurts people but that is the culture. It is up to society to change the culture. There is a reason bullying is epidemic, it is approved by society. Video games are becoming more realistic and they are violent. Every child has access rich or poor. It is said you are what you eat and you become what you are exposed to. Some will say this is not true. If you have never picked up a dictionary, how wide is your vocabulary?

Young people around the world are competing. They work to reach the level of the best and this ranks in cruelty. However, cruelty is a game. There is the problem of being narcotized; a noise can happen so much it goes unnoticed. Perhaps, this is the problem with bullying in Australia and the rest of the world. Stereotypes are only broken by exposure. This is also true of bullying.

As in the world at large, the Web is a dangerous place for sensitive people. The Bullied must learn to first not allow their countenance to be shaken and secondly to have a defence. Experts on bullying know confidence is a key piece in stopping bullying. Privacy is out of the window. Kids go to school and every movement you make is on video. Phones touch together and the information has gone viral.

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, and problems at home, at school and on the job. Tragically, it can also sometimes result in suicide. So What is Cyberbullying 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, and 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 behaviour 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 cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying 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 cyberbullying. 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 cyberbullying are accessible 24 hours a day. There is no time when emails, text messages, or other messages cannot be transmitted to them.

What is Cyberbullying for Kids?

Perhaps the most tragic of all types of cyberbullying, is that aimed toward defenceless children. Children lack the same coping mechanisms as adults and often suffer needlessly at the hands of cyberbullies. A 2005 article in the Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, suggests that cyberbullying 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 of cyberbullies 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 cyberbullied. The number is:

1800 55 1800.

What are Cyberbullying 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 cyberbullying 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 the 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. The maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment.

What Can Cyberbullying do to People?

Cyberbullying 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 cyberbullying 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 cyberbullying.

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 cyberbullied, there is all the more reason to seek professional help without hesitation.

What are Cyberbullying EXAMPLES

Cyberbullying 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 defence.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the distress that the bullied child can experience:

What can Cyberbullying Lead to:

Example one:

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.

Example two:

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.

Example three:

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.

Example four:

A child excels in school, repeatedly bringing home excellent scores. The cyberbully 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 Cyberbullying Do to You?

Cyberbullying can cause psychological trauma and in some cases, can lead to suicide. It is a crime under Australian law to cyberbully someone in a way that intentionally encourages or causes them to kill themselves. The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

Cyberbullying 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 cyberbullying, 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 cyberbullying?” and 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 cyberbullying. Talking to them openly and carefully, while answering questions such as, “What is cyberbullying?” so that they, too, will understand how they can help avoid cyberbullying 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 cyberbullying. Children should be instructed to open up to their parents at the first signs that cyberbullying is occurring. Parents should instruct their children to share any messages that are received from cyberbullies. 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 cyberbullied, they should report the behaviour 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 in 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 cyberbullying. 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 cyberbullying altogether.

What Every Parent Should Know About CyberBullying in Australia

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying involves using the internet to bully someone. Some common manifestations of cyber-bullying include:

  • Posting mean messages on someone’s social media account and/or posting such messages about a person on one’s own social media account
  • Text message bullying
  • Sending mean emails
  • Using the internet to make threats of verbal and/or physical violence
  • Blackmailing someone via the internet
  • Stalking
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online without their permission

Australian cyberbullying statistics are nothing short of alarming. One in four children admits to having been bullied online at some point in time. What is more, fewer parents are talking with their children about cyber safety, despite the fact that up to 80% of children less than ten years of age are active on social media networks.

At least one anti-bullying expert has noted the fact that most parents are not as tech-savvy as their children. This means that they often do not monitor what their children do online and/or fail to understand the implications of allowing their children to use social media outlets without proper supervision and training. These and other reasons have caused a social bullying epidemic greater than that faced by other developed countries. In fact, Australia recently ranked first place as being the nation with the highest rate of cyberbullying in the world.

What does Cyberbullying Mean for a Child?

Cyberbullying always has a negative impact on a child or teen. It is not uncommon for a victim of bullying to feel alone, ashamed, depressed, and guilty or even lash out in anger and become a cyber or real-world bully.

Parents should be aware of the negative emotions that often accompany cyber-bullying. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of desire to go to school
  • Fear of going to school
  • Low grades
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite or eating disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Anger
  • Suicidal thoughts (or even attempts)
  • Self-harm
  • Bullying behaviour

Naturally, the above-mentioned symptoms may be caused by other problems. However, given the prevalence of cyberbullying in Australia, parents should never rule this issue out when dealing with one or more of the above-mentioned problems.

What Causes Cyberbullying?

There are many reasons why a child or teen may turn to bully others on the internet or via mobile phone communications. These are:

  • Low self-esteem. Low self-esteem has been the root cause of bullying for decades. A child or young person who does not have a high opinion of him or herself will often resort to putting others down. Bullies who put others down and make them feel bad often feel that doing so makes them look better, smarter, prettier or what have you.
  • Violence at home. Many bullies come from difficult backgrounds and may very well be experiencing violence at home. As children copy their parents, it is not uncommon for a child who is verbally and/or physically abused at home to engage in the same behaviour at school.
  • Looking Good. Some children simply want to fit in with the “in” group and so join in when this group bullies someone else online. These children are, in many cases, simply attempting to save themselves from being targeted by the bully by joining forces with the bully to victimize someone else.
  • Lack of Proper Moral Education. Sadly, some children lack proper moral education. They have been taught by parents, older siblings or other close friends and family members that a person’s worth is determined by gender, ethnicity, clothing, wealth and/or other factors. Such children will often bully those whom they feel are beneath them simply because they fail to recognize the personal worth of the victim.

Teaching Children to Prevent and Deal with Bullying

Now that it is clear what cyberbullying is, it is time to talk about teaching children how to prevent and deal with this common problem.

Parents will want to talk with their children about the dangers of internet usage. Children should learn from a fairly early age that the internet poses many hazards (of which cyberbullying is only one). They should understand that certain guidelines should always be followed when using social media accounts, including:

  • Not opening an account until one is 13 years of age (this is a standard requirement set forth by nearly all social media accounts; sadly; many kids and young teenagers fail to understand its importance and so ignore it)
  • Social media account settings should always be adjusted so that only close friends and family members can view one’s profile
  • Children should never friend people they do not know well.
  • Children who see cyberbullying occur or are targeted by a cyber bully should immediately tell their parents or a trusted adult about it. Parents should make it clear that a child will never be grounded or in trouble for reporting cyber-bullying, regardless of how or why it occurred.
  • Children and teens should also learn to be very careful about the information and pictures they post online. If the information would not be shared with a casual acquaintance, then it is best kept off the internet.
  • Young mobile phone users should know how to block the number of a cyberbully.
  • A young person who is being harassed online should keep a record of the harassment. This includes emails, text messages and other documentation, as it can be used to press criminal charges against a cyber-bully.

Talking about Self Esteem

There is one main underlying issue that parents should always discuss when teaching children about cyber-bullying and that is self-esteem. Many children have extreme reactions to cyberbullying (i.e. attempted suicide, depression, panic attacks, etc.) simply because their self-esteem takes a hit when one or more cyberbullies target them.

Children should understand that they are valuable and of worth simply because of who they are. This self-worth does not depend on the type of clothes they wear, their hairstyle, grades, talents, weaknesses or any other factor. Those who understand this principle are better able to deal with cyberbullying than those who do not have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Dealing with a Cyberbully

It is not uncommon for children to bully others online without their parents being aware of the fact. This is just one of the many reasons why parents should supervise their children’s social media and internet usage as much as possible. With proper supervision, parents can often catch online bullying when it starts and help children understand why bullying someone over the internet is wrong.

Following are some pointers to keep in mind when discussing cyber-bullying with a child who is bullying others online.

  • First of all, make sure the child is not being bullied. It is very common for victims of bullying to turn into bullies themselves.
  • Ask a child why he or she is engaging in bullying behaviour. Finding the root cause of the problem will enable a parent to deal with the issue and not just the behaviour.
  • Seek counselling. Cyberbullies often need professional help; this can be obtained from a licensed counsellor or psychiatrist who specializes in working with children or young people.
  • Set consequences in place. Owning a phone and using social media accounts are privileges, not rights. Children who use their phones and/or computer to bully others should have their privileges restricted or taken away. Parents should make it clear that using a phone to bully someone else will result in having the mobile phone taken away for a pre-determined period of time. If a personal computer is used to engage in online bullying, then this computer should either be confiscated or moved to a public area of the home so that parents can better supervise a child’s activities.
  • Teens over the age of 14 should understand that there are legal consequences for online bullying. While laws regarding this issue vary depending on which state you live in, most states do have laws that allow young bullies to face criminal charges for their actions.
  • One particularly malicious of cyberbullying involves sending suggestive or nude pictures of another young person to others and/or posting such pictures online. Young people need to understand that doing this is not only morally wrong but also has serious legal consequences. A cyber-bully who engages in this form of behaviour can be charged with possession and/or distribution of pornography and these charges will forever remain on a person’s record.

What Else Can a Parent Do?

Talking with a child about cyber-bullying issues is one of the best things parents can do to prevent and/or deal with the cyber-bullying problem. However, there are times when simply discussing matters at home is not enough.

If the cyberbully goes to school with your child, you may want to consider talking with the principal or superintendent of the school regarding the issue. Good schools understand what is cyberbullying exactly and will likely have rules against it.

If threats of physical violence are involved, then parents will want to speak to law enforcement officials as soon as possible. Police can also help to track down a cyberbully in cases where a parent or child cannot identify who is making the threats.

If cyberbullying problems continue despite a parent’s or child’s efforts, then getting a new mobile phone, changing email address, deleting one or more social media accounts and/or moving to a new school should be considered. Alternatively, a parent may opt to pull a child from a traditional school setting altogether and either enrol the child in a virtual school or home school.

In Summary

Cyberbullying is no small problem in Australia, as is evidenced by the fact that at least 25% of all children are affected by this problem at some point in time. What is more, the fact that young children are getting online more often than they used to means that children are likely to face cyberbullying at an early age.

Thankfully, there are various things that parents can do to prevent cyberbullying and/or deal with it when it occurs. To start with, parents whose children are just starting to get online should talk with the children about cyberbullying and other dangers. Children should know what cyberbullying is and what to do about it when it occurs. They should also know how to prevent cyberbullies from harassing them online.

Young people should also understand the consequences of using the internet to bully or harass others in any way. Parents will need to supervise a child’s internet and mobile phone usage as much as possible and enforce agreed-upon consequences if a child starts to bully others for any reason.

Finally, parents should be prepared to take drastic action if cyberbullying becomes an ongoing problem. This may involve going to the police, talking to school officials, changing personal information or all of the above. Cyberbullying is a serious problem that should never be ignored in the hopes that it will eventually go away on its own.

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 on the internet?
  • Have you avoided opening e-mails to stop reading harsh words?
  • Has someone spread rumours 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. Cyberbullying 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 cyberbullied.

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, and their peers. However, cyberbullying at the workplace also exists among 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 them 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 rumours 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, and 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 behaviour 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 bullying 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 of 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 self-defence 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 behaviour, but your daughter may be using this as a way to gauge 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 websites, 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 liaison police officer if available.
  • Review the school’s policy on bullying and make sure that you agree with the consequences.
  • Consider counselling 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 a cyberbully.)
  • Remind your child to NOT REPLY to any contact from the cyberbully. Hopefully, that will stop the attacks.
  • Contact the website administrators to remove any unwelcome postings, videos, images or tags.
  • Report the bullying to the website.
  • 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 accidentally 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 counselling 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 a cyberbully.)
  • Remind your child to NOT REPLY to any contact from the cyberbully. Hopefully, that will stop the attacks.
  • Contact the website administrators to remove any unwelcome postings, videos, images or tags.
  • Report the bullying to the website.
  • 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.