Older News  » Schools tackle cyberbullying

Last updated 10:55 AM on 15 September 2011

Students from across the state shared their views on cyberbullying at a recent community forum in Sydney.

The one-day event also brought educators, academics, social media experts, parents and community members together to hear current research findings and to explore strategies to address cyberbullying.

Students from 23 NSW public schools were present at the forum, with another 19 regional schools - including parents and community members - participating via videoconference.

One in ten children affected

Keynote speaker and director of Edith Cowan University's Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Professor Donna Cross, said cyberbullying was a growing problem, with one in 10 Australian children affected.

According to Professor Cross's research, traditional forms of bullying, such as physical violence, were decreasing while the incidence of cyberbullying was increasing at the rate of two or three per cent a year.

"We have a portion of children who are now engaging in this behaviour because they can use a medium where they can hide," she said.

Most cyberbullying occurs at home

Professor Cross said most cyberbullying occurred while young people were at home and that half of the victims did not know the identity of perpetrator, which added to the feeling of vulnerability.

Marilyn Campbell, associate professor of psychology at the Queensland University of Technology, said the responses to cyberbullying had so far focused on cyber-safety measures.

"We seem to emphasise protection of all kids. Should we have the same emphasis on preventing the kids bullying in the first place?" Dr Campbell said.

"Sure we need to understand the technology ... but we can't forget this is a behavioural issue that requires a behavioural response," Professor Cross said.

Community-wide solutions needed

NSW education minister Verity Firth said the Department of Education took the issue of bullying in schools seriously and has developed comprehensive anti-bullying programs, policies and procedures.

However, Ms Firth said it was not always possible to deal with cyberbullying in the same ways as bullying that occurs in other ways.

"At the heart of this issue is understanding the prominence of social media in a young person's life and finding the safest ways it can be used," she said.

"We need a national, multi-agency approach to improve cyber safety and it needs to transcend government departments - it needs to include community, industry, educators, students and society as a whole."

The education department is already helping parents understand social media and technology, with the bi-monthly e-zine,
Click-a technology guide for parents.

Watch out for the special Cyberbullying issue of Click, online December 2009.

To find out more about the forum visit the blog cyberbullyingforum.org