The Cyberbullying Australia Story
The Internet has revolutionized social communication and interaction and while much of it is benign, there are those who use the technology to cause emotional harm. Children can cyberbully each other in a number of ways including abusive texts and emails, hurtful messages, images or videos, imitating others online, excluding, nasty online gossip and chat.
Cyberbullying is a form of teen violence that can do lasting harm to young people. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicide. Cyberbullying statistics in Australia show that it has become a serious problem among teens. How common is cyberbullying in Australia?
One in 10 young people has experienced cyberbullying according to Cross, 2009. Cyberbullying research on the occurrence of cyberbullying in Australia statistics has shown that 40% of people online either strongly or somewhat agree that they frequently worry about getting upsetting personal emails, comments or chat messages.
5% worry about what others know about them from their social networking service page. More females (64%) from years 6 to 12 reported being cyber victims. Of young Australians aged 12 to 17 just over 1 in 2—54%—strongly or somewhat agree they ‘worry about someone hacking into their email.’
Cyberbullying statistics Australia can confirm that victims and those who bullied them knew each other in real life. Furthermore, cyberbullying statistics in Australia have reported victims and those who bullied them also went to the same school were the same gender and described themselves as a friend—not an acquaintance. Among young people, 25% of cyber bullies targeted people they didn’t know using MSN, social networking, texting, email and chat. Older students (or those with more access to technology) are more likely to cyber-bully than younger ones.
A quarter of all cyber-bullies target people they do not even know. Cellphone usage makes cyber-bullying easier where over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly both through their cell phones or the Internet. More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.
Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying. These are the cyberbullying Australia statistics facing authorities monitoring online behavior. Frighteningly, well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
How can cyberbullying be effectively controlled? Implementation of cyber bullying laws in Australia regard online criminal behavior as defined by the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act of 1995. The Act makes it a criminal offense to use telecommunication as a means to spread hatred via cyberbullying. The law provides the framework for redress. It advocates cyber bullying will require “(i)n a way that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.”
The threat here may be explicit and contained in the content of the communications, or implicit and inferred by the type of use (i.e. multiple postings on a website.) Failure to comply holds a penalty of up to three years in prison. Also, once things are circulated on the Internet, they may never disappear, resurfacing at later times to renew the pain of cyber bullying.
One of the more prominent cyberbullying stories in Australia chronicle the life and death of Charlotte Dawson. She was known in New Zealand for her roles as host of Getaway, in Australia as a host on The Contender Australia and as a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model. Charlotte had been outspoken about cyberbullying. In 2014, Dawson, 47 years of age was found dead in her Sydney apartment. She had recently revealed in her autobiography, Air Kiss & Tell, that she was frequently visited by the “depression bogeyman”. With over 53,000 followers just on Twitter, Ms Charlotte Dawson re-tweeted hateful messages in order to expose criminal behaviour.
“If you’re going to express those points of view, you should do it with a face and a name so that you can be accountable.” The former model was hospitalized after an attempted suicide when she received mail in the form of online abuse including from one Twitter user who urged Dawson to hang herself. In 2012 Dawson was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney Australia after attempting to commit suicide.
Dawson was rushed to hospital after being found by a former Australia’s Next Top Model contestant. Dawson was targeted by an organized online campaign of harassment. Her famous involvement with Community Brave, an anti-cyberbullying group has been identified as a reason. The organization Community Brave identified one of Dawson’s assailants on Twitter as an employee of a respectable University in Melbourne, Australia. Community Brave then reported the incident.
Unfortunately, the alleged offence was pardoned by the Australian University and the assailant was reinstated thereafter. The activist’s shocking demise has forced the Government to challenge the causes of depression and its relationship to cyber bullying. Kate Carnell, the chief executive of Beyond Blue, an Australian non-profit that campaigns to raise awareness about depression says that bullying via social media can be a major factor in triggering mental health issues. “Because people can bully anonymously, it makes it more likely and it makes it more dangerous.” People do it because they think it’s smart, it’s funny, but the message we have to get out is that it’s not. It can do serious damage.
The important thing to do is speak up about it,” she said. “People think ‘I should be able to manage this by myself’ but bullying needs to be reported. Tell someone. Report it to [the social media website], talk to a friend. If the bullying continues, it’s important to report it to the police. Comparing cyber bullying to bullying, Ms Carnell said “we need to have real penalties in place for people who engage in bullying. “We have to get mechanisms in place. This is a form of violence.”
Following the death of Charlotte Dawson, an online petition has circulated to make changes to laws regarding cyberbullies. The petition calls for a ‘Charlotte’s Law.’ It has been initiated by Dawson’s friend, Em Mastronardi who recently launched the campaign for Charlotte on the Change.org website. As of recently, the petition received more than 15,000 signatures. The law calls for stricter cyberbullying legislation. It urges state and federal authorities to take a stance on cyberbullying and for accountability among governing authorities.
Mastronardi says the model and TV personality fought hard against cyber bullying and had dreamed of eradicating negativity. Mastronardi says Dawson’s death shouldn’t be in vain and the petition is a way of continuing the battle. “We ask that the Australian federal and the state governments enforce the existing anti-bullying and harassment laws and take action against those who violate them. We ask that Social Media companies take a more active role in the prevention of cyber bullying, and take more responsibility in monitoring posts of ‘hate’. We ask that together we unite to change the cyber bullying platform.” Forging Charlotte’s law will certainly help to change cyberbullies.
Aside from enforcing laws, what measures can the general public take to control harmful online behaviour? Specifically, what are parents to do when their child comes to them in tears as a result of being bullied online? The Australian authorities have now set up a website, Cybersmart that monitors cyberbullying and provides solutions for parents, teachers and authorities. Cyber bullies may not realize the consequences for themselves.
Cybersmart supports and encourages participation in the digital economy by providing information and education which empowers children to be safe online. With a focus on digital engagement, the program is not designed to tackle issues for which a specialist response is needed, and will defer to the expertise of others. Such issues may include cyber-crime or self-harming behaviors.
All Cybersmart content and resources are created based on the same underlying principles: that these materials are of a high standard, consistent, audience-appropriate and well prepared. Materials are assessed on how suitable, effective, and engaging they are, and how easy they are to use. All materials bearing the Cybersmart brand are high quality and carefully reviewed prior to publishing. The site also takes into careful consideration how young people feel about cyberbullying. Cybersmart connects parents to cyber safety resources. Cybersmart is required to meet high standards of transparency, probity and audit. Program effectiveness is assessed through a continuing and formal evaluation program.