Research into cyber bullying has found it frequently leads to depression, binge drinking, theft and violent behaviour. Australian Catholic University (ACU) researchers looked at the long-term impacts of cyber bullying for both the victims and the perpetrators, with more than 900 Victorian students involved in the study. “We found associations between early experiences of cyber victimisation and depressive symptoms,” lead researcher Professor Sheryl Hemphill, from the ACU’s Learning Sciences Institute, said. “The measure that we had suggested that this was quite a strong effect, that it was about four times higher for this group when they were in year 10.” Her research team found cyber bullying could be associated with self-harm, but the link weakened once other influences in teenagers’ lives, like family conflict, were taken into account. “There was a result with the young people who’d experienced both cyber bullying perpetration and victimisation and suspension from school,” Professor Hemphill said. “So they were three times more likely to be suspended from school and they’re also four times more likely to engage in binge drinking.”
Government to appoint e-safety commissioner
Researchers urged schools and parents to think harder about preventative measures. “We need to have multifaceted approaches and we need to get in early before these behaviours become entrenched,” Professor Hemphill said. “We don’t want to forget traditional bullying even though cyber bullying is quite prominent at the moment.” The Federal Government says it is doing something about the problem of cyber bullying and will appoint an e-safety commissioner within weeks. The parliamentary secretary to the Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, will not yet say who will be appointed to the role but said the commissioner will have the power to order content to be removed from social media websites. “There’s a mechanism set out in the Act for the issue of notices to either the large social media service or the person who posted the material,” he said. He said companies will have fines if content is not removed. “Ultimately the failure to remove the material can expose the large social media service to a fine of up to $17,000 a day,” he said. “It is a pretty powerful toll, that being said, we do expect that there will be a good working relationship between the children’s e-safety commissioner and the large social media services.”
This article first appeared ABC, 20 March 2015.