The online world has become an increasing concern for parents, especially with the rise in cyber bullying on social media. It’s the digital version of bullying, where children are literally killing each other.
Bully Zero Australia Foundation, BZAF.org.au
Suicide is not uncommon amongst teens who have been involved in a cyber-bullying incident. Online counselling service, ChildLine reported an 87% increase in online bullying between 2012-2013, where 33% of victims resorted to self-harm.
The consequences of cyber bullying have prompted a call for cyber sense amongst parents and schools, putting cyber bullying back in the spotlight. The government is also on the case with the 2014 budget revealing $10 million to be allocated to funding online safety, in a bid to decrease rising mental health issues.
Image: Anita Peppers, MorgueFile
Parents need to understand that the online playground is not risk-free. With over 1.05 million social media apps available to young people right now, cyber bullying can take place on anyone of them, at any time, making social media a ticking time bomb.
Image: Oscar Yildiz, Bully Zero Australia Foundation
CEO of Bully Zero Australia Foundation, Oscar Yildiz, said it’s important to address mental health effects of cyber bullying, based on the 297 kids who committed suicide last year, being between the ages of 13 and 19.
“As a parent you need to ask yourself about the playing field of the internet. Would you take your kids to a park and leave them there on their own?” Mr Yildiz said.
“Our message is not to take social media away from kids, it’s important to teach responsible social media,
It’s all about getting the message across that you shouldn’t say things online if you wouldn’t say them offline.”
Anti-bullying advocate and author of cyber bullying fiction, “Unbreakable” Christy Heather Roberts, said Australia needs to take cyber bullying more seriously as kids aren’t committing suicide at school, they are doing it at home.“It’s opening a window or a door into your room so bullies can come in and hurt you”, she said.
Image: Christy Heather Roberts
Robert’s book, which is based on her encounters with bullying, said that even now she still struggles with her emotions from being tormented in her teens. “There’s a difference between having an argument with your friend and people repeatedly abusing you.”
Mr Yildiz said that parents need to keep up-to-date because they might know about Facebook, but that was introduced 10 years ago. “I say to parents: you can teach kids responsible social media but you need to also maintain supervision, and avoid saying “you can’t do this”, but instead explain the reason behind it.”
Visit http://bfaf.org.au/cyber-bullying/ for more info about how to deal with online bullying
Recently, a former classmate of mine had committed suicide due to cyber bullying. Her older sister has contacted the government to propose anti-bullying laws in Australia to minimise the risk of bullying. It's great that the government is responding to the alarming rate of mental illness in Australia by funding a major contributor to teen suicide, cyber bullying.