ONE in five children were cyber bullied last year and Australia’s eSafety commissioner says “it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when” children will be subjected to online hate.
The stark figures from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner reveal the bullying included social exclusion, being called names or having mean things said about them, having lies or rumours spread about them, receiving repeated unwanted messages, being sent inappropriate content, and receiving violent threats.
Parents are urged to collect screenshots for evidence and encourage their children to take action, including reporting any offensive posts to the host site. The devastating impact of cyber bullying has been in the spotlight again after the suicide of 14-year-old Dolly Everett this month.
ESafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said just as parents navigated their children through the perils of the real world, they needed to do the same for their online lives.
“We need to help our young people build the resilience, courage and strength to cope with what they may experience online — sadly, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when they will encounter negative online behaviour,” she said.
“As parents, we need to be instilling the importance of respect and responsibility when we hand over digital devices to our kids and we need to be modelling that same behaviour both online and offline.”
Beyondblue chief executive Georgie Harman said bullied people may display traits of low mood, withdraw from social situations, seem tired and irritable, and resort to “unhelpful coping strategies” like drugs or alcohol.
“If you notice these or other significant changes, talk to the person you’re concerned about, discuss the changes you have noticed and why these changes worry you,” she said.
“Let them know you are there to listen and to support them.”
Anti-bullying advocate Oscar Yildiz said parents needed to get children to stand up for themselves.
“When the kids stand up say ‘enough is enough’, the message might finally get through,” he said.