Wed, 29 Oct 2014 - 22:00
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New Study Adds to Evidence of Extent of Cyberbullying

The Herald Sun this week reported on a new study on teenage bullying – including cyberbullying.

Several hundred teenagers in Victoria, in Year 7 and Year 9, were interviewed for the study.

According to Australian Catholic University Professor Sheryl Hemphill, more than 20 per cent of girls in the study reported being cyberbullied in the last year.

Professor Hemphill and her co-authors have recently had their study published in a prestigious international journal.[1]

Interestingly, this figure of 20 per cent is very consistent with figures reported in other recent studies.

Earlier this year the Abbott Government commissioned research on the prevalence of cyberbullying, from the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre together with researchers from the University of South Australia, the University of Western Sydney, the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre.

The research team said its best estimate of the prevalence of cyberbullying over a twelve month period is 20 per cent of Australians aged 8-17, with some studies putting that figure as low as 6 per cent and others as high as 40 percent.[2]

Another recent estimate which is consistent with Professor Hemphill’s work comes from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which in 2013 found that 21 per cent of 14-15 year-olds and 16 per cent of 16-17 year-olds had reported being cyber-bullied.[3]

Based on the UNSW figures, 463,000 children and young people in Australia are estimated to have been victims of cyberbullying last year - with around 365,000 in the 10-15 age group.[4]

The fact that an academic study of this kind was reported in a major daily newspaper is a good indication of the level of community concern about cyberbullying and how we respond to it.

Reflecting this community concern, the Abbott Government took a detailed policy concerning online safety for children to the 2013 election – and we are now hard at work on implementing it.  Key elements of the policy include :

  • Establishing a Children's e-Safety Commissioner to take a national leadership role in online safety for children.
  • Implementing an effective complaints system, backed by legislation, to get material targeted at and harmful to an Australian child, down quickly from large social media sites.
  • Improved support for schools through a stronger online safety component within the National Safe Schools Framework, funding of $7.5 million for schools to access online safety programmes and the certification of online safety programmes.

[1] Hemphill, S et al, ‘Predictors of Traditional and Cyber-Bullying Victimization: A Longtitudinal Study of Australian Secondary School Students’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2014

[2] UNSW ‘Research on youth exposure to, and management of, cyberbullying incidents in Australia’, Synthesis Report, p2

[3] Australian Communications and Media Authority, Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media - Quantitative research report, 2013, pg. 10

[4] UNSW Synthesis Report, p 2