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#BullyingNoWay 2018 - Responding to Cyberbullying

16th March 2018

Bullying has become more pervasive as more mediums have become accessible for individuals to communicate, highlighted by the increase in cyberbullying across instant messaging and social media applications. As increasing news reports and popular media refers to the consequences of cyberbullying, the Australian Government has responded by creating the office of the e-Safety Commissioner in July 2015 with specific reference to Children safety online. This is not only an issue which affects children but also their parents and adults in the workplace.

What is cyberbullying?

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner defines cyberbullying as the use of technology to bully a person or group with the intent to hurt them socially, psychologically or even physically (Office of e-Safety Commissioner). Cyberbullying can occur in many forms including receiving abusive or hurtful texts, emails and social media messages, people sending images or videos of others without their permission, imitating others online, excluding others online, humiliating others online, spreading rumours or lies online.

Cyberbullying differs from other forms of bullying in that a lot of people can view or take part in it and the content (photos, texts, videos) can be shared with a large number of people. It is often done in secret with the bully hiding their identity and sending anonymous messages and it can be difficult to remove because it can be shared in multiple places online. It can be very difficult for the person being bullied to escape if they use technology frequently (Reachout, Kids Helpline). For all of these reasons it is the impact of cyberbullying can be serious and pervasive.

Impacts and Warning signs relating to your children’s use of online media

Research suggests that Cyberbullying impacts one in five Australians (Office of e-Safety Commissioner). Cyberbullying can have a number of negative effects on the person who is being cyberbullied, including:

  • feelings of guilt (feeling ‘It’s my fault’);
  • feeling hopeless and stuck, feeling embarrassed;
  • feeling depressed, rejected or unsafe; or
  • feeling stressed out and wondering why this is happening.

There are a number of key warning signs that indicate that a child may be a target of cyberbullying:

  • Change in appetite; or
  • Withdrawn from usual friends/family;
  • Oversleeping or not sleeping enough;
  • Appearing to be angry, depressed or frustrated after going online;
  • Appearing nervous when using a device;
  • Unexpectedly stopping the use of a device;
  • Avoiding discussions about what they are doing online, or are becoming unusually secretive, especially in relation to online activities (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015)

Evidence suggests that a child be may cyberbullying others if he or she quickly switches screens or hides their device when you are close by, uses their device at all hours of the night, becomes unusually upset if they can’t use their device, appears overly concerned with their social standing and status, appears overly conceited about their technological skills and abilities.

Responding to cyberbullying

If your child is showing any of these signs or are displaying other worrying and out of character behavior, it is important to talk with them and keep the lines of communication open, either directly with you or with a trusted adult. It can be helpful to keep the focus off the situation by also encouraging your child to do something offline that they enjoy.

Once you have had a conversation, the Office of the eSafety Commission recommends a number of important steps. Firstly, that the person experiencing the bullying does not retaliate or respond, they block the bully and change privacy settings. It is then recommended to report the abuse to the service and encourage others to also do so. If the social media service fails to remove the material within 48 hours of reporting it to them, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner. It is also recommended to collect evidence, to keep mobile phone messages, take screen shots and print emails or social networking conversations.

If the cyberbullying is school related, most schools have a policy in place to address cyberbullying and should be able to provide support to students who are being cyberbullied whether the cyberbully is a student from the school or not. It is recommend to involve the school where possible.

Tips for ensuring online safety

Navigating the world of online can be a minefield. It is important to talk to your child early and often about e-safety and take an interest in what your child does online. This may involve letting your child show you how to participate in their online world and learning who your child speaks to online.

If appropriate, it is recommended to set boundaries and agree rules. This includes ensuring you’re your child only views content that reflects their age. There are a number of parental control tools available to filter, restrict, monitor and report content and protect your child’s personal information. In addition, regular communication will instill confidence in your child to involve you when dealing with any online safety concerns that may arise.

 

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