This article was updated following the launch of the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner. Read the updated article here.
What is cyberbullying? How do I tell, and what do I do, if I think my child or a student at my school is being bullied online? Or on their phone? Where can I find information about cyberbullying? These are not uncommon questions, especially when cyberbullying affects as many as 1 in 5 young Australians. So what is it?
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that is not carried out face-to-face. Instead, cyberbullying uses electronic devices such as mobile phones and the internet to harass, cause humiliation and distress. It can be done via SMS, over email, on social networks, or even while gaming online. With every phone a camera, photos or videos can easily be taken of a person to scare, intimidate, threaten and embarrass, and then posted online on sites such as Youtube and Facebook.
Bullying can be a humiliating experience for the victim and can often lead to anxiety, depression and stress. It can generally be hard to detect, but with cyberbullying this is especially so as children can be reluctant to tell adults that they are being bullied online for fear that their mobile phone or internet access will be restricted. Indicators of cyberbullying include a child’s reluctance to use the internet, emails causing distress, and secretive behaviour – including hastily switching screens when a parent or adult enters the room.
Cyberbullying is a punishable crime. If you suspect your child is being bullied, you may consider the following courses of action:
discuss your concerns with your child
set up some house rules for using mobile phones and the internet
if possible, set up the computer in an open area of the house instead of the child’s room
encourage your child to talk to you about any problems they may be experiencing
demonstrate awareness and trust by taking an interest in your child’s online activities
encourage your child to leave upsetting sites
suggest your child ignore and not respond to distressful messages, emails and phone calls
ask if your Internet Service Provider can block unwanted content from certain senders