Cyberbullying and Young Tasmanians Report

Date: Wed, 03/12/2014

In recent times there has been increasing discussion and research about cyberbullying as an issue that is having a negative effect on the lives of young people in Australia.

The Youth Network of Tasmania (YNOT) is the peak non-government body for the youth sector and young people in Tasmania. YNOT conducts research and facilitates consultations to develop policy positions on issues that are significant for young people, so as to inform advocacy work on behalf of young people in Tasmania.

In this capacity, YNOT identified a need to consider the issue of cyberbullying, as a number of serious incidents of cyberbullying in Tasmania have been reported through the media. Through this research, YNOT also seeks to discover the factors that contribute to cyberbullying and strategies to assist young people who have engaged in cyberbullying to improve their behaviour.

The purpose of this document is to explore the current cyberbullying context; to discuss the measures that are already in place to address cyberbullying and comment on action proposed for the future. It is clear that no single measure will adequately address cyberbullying, nor does the responsibility for reducing cyberbullying lie with any one person or organisation. Therefore it is vital that all strategies to address cyberbullying share a consistent message and are working towards common goals.

From the research that YNOT has conducted, there are three broad measures that we believe would assist in reducing the occurrence of cyberbullying, and consequently a number of recommendations have been made throughout this document. YNOT supports:

·        The Federal Government’s plan to establish a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner, whom would take a leadership role in online safety and have the ability to request the removal of cyberbullying content. YNOT recommends that the Commissioner works with each State and Territory Government to develop a specific strategy for each region, and to clarify how the current legislation of each jurisdiction applies to cyberbullying;

·        Research based school education programs (for example Cybersmart or eSmart Schools) that teach students about online safety and encourage them to be good ‘digital citizens’. YNOT recommends that such programs are introduced into all Tasmanian schools; and

·        Youth friendly websites featuring evidence based information about cyberbullying, and referrals. YNOT recommends that these sites are promoted to young people and to adults, so that there is a good general understanding within the community of what cyberbullying is, the effect it has on young people, and how it can be dealt with. 

YNOT emphasises that cyberbullying is a continuing issue and even if comprehensive efforts are made now, it is important that efforts to reduce cyberbullying do not lose momentum. Ongoing education is necessary to ensure that we all remain informed, as technology and social media trends change over time. YNOT believes that widespread benefits would be achieved through collaboration between the Tasmanian Government and the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, upon their appointment, to develop a clear strategy to address the issue of cyberbullying for young people in Tasmania.