Cyberbullying ‘scourge’ prompts urgent government roundtable

Cyberbullying ‘scourge’ prompts urgent government roundtable

Cyberbullying is insidious and destructive, with thousands of children desperately seeking help every year, a roundtable called by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk heard on Monday.

The issue was brought into the spotlight following the death of “Dolly” Amy Jayne Everett, who took her own life at 14 after she was bullied.

Speaking prior to the roundtable, University of Queensland Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) Network board member Matthew Sanders said there were too many children experiencing “significant bullying” at a primary and secondary school level.

“I don’t think we’re going to seriously to be able to resolve this problem without a serious partnership with parents and carers in this community,” he said.

“I think it’s important that parents are aware of what’s happening, the kinds of peer relationships their children are having, how they’re getting on with their kids.

“Sometimes early warning signs can be detected… It’s important for parents to realise they have a role to play in friendship-making, making and keeping friends, and also dealing with conflict within the peer group.”

Professor Sanders said a bit of “ribbing” or teasing was part of life and children needed to be robust and resilient to deal with banter that was not designed to hurt.

“But for the 10 per cent of kids who are seriously peer victimised, and for which this continues over years and years, that’s a different story,” he said.

“When it crosses the line and kids are distressed, they’re wanting to avoid school, then it should not be a situation where there’s simply a school-related solution to this problem.

“It’s a community solution and families are critical to resolving it.”

Professor Sanders said the internet had allowed an entirely new dimension of bullying.

“There’s always been bullying in schools … It’s so much easier to do it and continue to do it, in many different ways – it’s a great new challenge for many parents,” he said.

Queensland Teachers’ Union president Kevin Bates said the community needed to take responsibility for the violence perpetrated against young people.

“Whether that’s face-to-face, in the school, in the community, or whether that’s through the insidious nature of cyberbullying,” he said.

Mr Bates said every child who had a mobile phone or computer could be subjected to cyberbullying.

“You can be exposed to this form of violence in your home, in your own bedroom, when you’re not necessarily in contact with the perpetrator directly,” he said.

“It’s a much more destructive form of violence in terms of the sheer weight of time and energy that some people put into bullying others.”

Mr Bates said some adults set a bad example in their behaviour on social media, which told children it was “OK” to be nasty to other people.

Last year, 3187 contacts to Kids Helpline were from young people concerned about online or texting activity.

Of those, 14 per cent were experiencing suicidal thoughts at the time of contact.

Over its 26 years, Kids Helpline has provided phone and online counselling services to more than 7.5 million children.

Yourtown chief executive Tracy Adams, whose charity manages the helpline, said young people contacted the services about anything from relationships with friends and family, school worries, homelessness, bullying, mental health and suicide.

On Monday, Ms Palaszczuk announced the government would establish an anti-bullying taskforce, to inform the development of a new anti-bullying framework for Queensland.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also committed to add the issue to the agenda of next month’s Council of Australian Governments meeting.

The Queensland government will give $60,000 to Yourtown, which operates the Kids Helpline and Parentline, on top of its existing $1 million commitment.

The government will also launch an anti-bullying public awareness campaign.

After the measures were approved in cabinet, Ms Palaszczuk held a stakeholder roundtable, with about 30 representatives packed into a boardroom in 1 William Street to help inform the Queensland government’s submission to COAG.

The roundtable was briefed by Ms Adams and child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg.

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Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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