For many Australian adolescents, social media is a vital point of social interaction. It’s a place where they can chat, share, like, react, snap, Tweet, post and connect. It’s the place where they can talk to their friends, meet like-minded people and express themselves across multiple platforms. From SnapChat to Instagram, Facebook to Twitter, more and more young Australians are talking via social media – especially those living in rural or remote areas.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the number of young Australians who rate the internet as ‘very important’ has doubled since 2009. With factors such as mobile internet accessibility on the rise, the research findings found that the majority of children and young people over the age of 12 had a Facebook account, with those who didn’t stating they felt they were someone “socially isolated”, particularly those is rural areas.
According to some reports, up to 99 per cent of young Australians are online daily, with social media sites particularly popular. When taking into consideration the metro vs rural usage of social media, the 2018 Yellow Social Media Report came back with some concerning findings.
The Yellow Social Media Report is an annual survey that looks at how individuals and businesses use social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Within the report, it found that people in regional areas are more likely to have witnessed bullying or harassment on social media (23 per cent vs 15 per cent) and are more than twice as likely to have been bullied themselves (nine per cent vs four per cent).
What is concerning about this particular finding is that up to 47 per cent of parents weren’t even aware that their children had a social media profile.
With children now having access to the internet 24/7 it increases the chance of cyberbullying and this is a concern for parents, teachers and school counsellors as new technologies introduce new avenues for bullying. Cyberbullying is defined as bullying that is done through the use of technology, for example, using the internet or a mobile phone to hurt, harass or embarrass someone. It can be difficult to identify as signs are not always obvious. It is therefore important that as a community we know how to identify and prevent cyberbullying.
POSSIBLE INDICATORS OF CYBERBULLYING
- Appears nervous when receiving a text, instant message, or email
- Seems uneasy about going to school or pretends to be ill
- Unwillingness to share information about online activity
- Unexplained anger or depression, especially after going online
- Abruptly shutting off or walking away from the computer mid-use
- Withdrawing from friends and family in real life
- Unexplained stomach aches or headaches
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
As children grow up, it’s crucial to keep your eyes peeled for these warning signs that something is going wrong in their world. If you notice some of these signs creeping into your child’s behaviour, it’s time to talk about what’s going on. Being the victim of cyberbullying is miserable, so don’t minimise the problem or ignore it. This is the time for your child to know that you are on their side, no matter what.
HOW TO PREVENT CYBERBULLYING
There are many actions that can be taken at home to prevent cyberbullying.
- Talk with your child about cyberbullying
- Learn about what your child does online
- Set ground rules for your child’s online activity
- Teach your child safe online behaviour
- Teach your child how to respond to cyberbullying
- Be available to help your child
- Know the websites and apps your child may be using
The internet can be a positive influence for young people to connect and access a wealth of information. As parents, guardians and educators you need to pay attention, assess, speak and listen openly about online behaviours.
Through keeping an eye on their child’s online activity or engaging in open and honest conversations with their child about remaining safe online, it is hoped that bullying and harassment figures will see a decline. Encouraging a ‘log off’ time and bringing children out of their bedroom’s when they are on social media are also ways parents can monitor their online activity.
For more tips and trick, visit www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/online-safety