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Stigma around cyberbullying needs an update

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“Cyberia” – cyber bullying stage play by Brainstorm Productions

A new study suggests cyberbullying in Australia has halved since last year, but experts are concerned that the stigma around it is stopping the number from reducing further.

“We do still get a lot of requests in our call centre of people who report they have been cyberbullied,” Oscar Yildiz of Bully Zero says.

The new study claims that an increased trust of parents in their children’s online activities has helped reduce the number of offences, with nine in ten kids discussing cyber issues with their parents.

“Two thirds of parents are friends with their children online. Despite this, half those parents are worrying more because of the increased use of mobile devices and a quarter with the level of personal information being shared online,” Melanie Duca, from Intel Security ,says.

Mr Yildiz believes parents are still behind when it comes to the social media their children are using.

“Parents need to educate themselves on the technology and apps their kids are using, they should be asking them what they are doing on the apps, and they should set the boundaries of how much time they spend online.”

He is not concerned about common social networks such as facebook and twitter, but more risky apps that he feels parents know much less about – kik messenger being one example.

According to Bully Zero, while adults experience online bullying as well, the main focus is on teenagers around the age of 15 years.

Jennifer Johnson, from theatre company Brainstorm Productions, agrees and adds the debate should focus more on the perpetrators.

“The thing we do know about teenagers is that they are impulsive, they don’t really make very good decisions a lot of the time, and there are hormones racing around in their body so we can’t expect too much of them” she says.

Brainstorm production stages plays for 350,000 school kids every year, some of which model cyberbullying situations and try to explain both sides of victim and abuser.

According to Ms Johnson, they see a lot of anxiety in kids who are worried about the consequences of becoming a cyberbully.

”The repercussions online are far reaching – much more than if you say something to someone’s face. It can be very scary for kids, they think if I muck it up my life will never be the same – but if you get in quickly and do the right thing, life will go on.”

Ms Johnson heightens the importance of teaching parents and kids the nuts and bolts of what goes on in those incidents.

“There is a big stigma and we need more money to be given to organisations so that they can help kids manage these situations when they come up – and parents need to be educated too.”

But Mr Yildiz goes as far as saying that getting police involved is reasonable when it comes to serious attacks on the net.

“If you have told the person to stop and reported them to the social network it happened on, but they still continue to bully you, you have every right to contact your local police station.”

 

About the author

Victoria Deborah Knauf