Cyber bullying is a real problem in Australia

The suicide of 13 year old Megan Meiers (pictured) made headlines around the world when it was revealed the teenager had been tormented on MySpace by adult neighbour Lori Drew.  

But in a decision which angered many close to the case, no charges could be laid against the 47 year old mother for harassing the teenager on MySpace, an act which undoubtedly led to the girl’s suicide.

Tina Meiers, the mother of the teenage victim wanted Lori Drew charged but was told by prosecutors in Missouri that no state law applied in the case.  Now the case of Megan Meiers has inspired Missouri legislators to introduce a new law making cyber bullying and harassment a crime.  Under the new law, any adult who is found guilty of bullying or harassing a child under the age of 18 on the Internet, will face up to four years in prison.

Last year a survey of 45,000 children in the United States revealed that 85 per cent of kids between the ages of ten and fourteen had experienced cyber bullying.  But the problem is not unique to the United States.

Psychologist Marilyn Campbell from the Queensland University of Technology told the PM program on ABC Radio that cyber bullying is a growing problem in Australia. 

“It seems to be about 14 to 15 per cent of children have been cyber bullied, either on their mobile phone or by the Internet,” said Ms Campbell.

ABC reporter Lindy Kerin revealed that some Australian schools have already introduced the Cyber Citizenship course which is based on an American model developed to educate kids and decrease the incidence of cyber bullying. 

Marilyn Campbell told Ms Kerin, “Schools are becoming more aware of cyber bullying.  Even in some of the schools policies, they haven’t updated them to include cyber bullying.  Bullying is really a social relationship problem that is really deeply embedded in society.”

Recently the Telstra Foundation announced they are launching a new $2 million program to reduce bullying and harassment of children using the Internet and mobile phones across Australia.

Not for profit organisations are being invited to apply for a grant of $75,000 to provide effective solutions for reducing cyber bullying of children and teenagers.  Telstra Foundation Chairman, Herb Elliott said:

“We want to reverse this growing trend, and support programs and research that help keep kids safe while they make the most of the exciting opportunities the internet and mobile phones offer.

“In particular, the cyber safety grants will focus on funding programs to help educate parents about online technology, and simple steps they can take to create a safe online learning and social environment for their child.”

Cyber bullying and harassment on the Internet doesn’t just affect kids.  Many adults have experienced at least one incident of cyber bullying or harassment on the Internet.  If you are anything like me and write about controversial topics, you’ve experienced several.  However, children and in particular teenagers, do appear to bear the brunt of cyber bullying and it’s negative effects.  So more has to be done to educate kids and the wider community about this growing problem.  I would hate to see a case like the tragic death of Megan Meiers repeated here in Australia.

Comments

  1. Kristal says

    Out of complete curiosity, how exactly would ‘banning’ this act work? Making cyber bullying (and bullying in general) illegal is a brilliant idea, but I would like to know how such a law would be policed.

    From what I was aware, and perhaps I was wrong, this sort of cyber bullying is harrassment and needs to be reported with proof so that something can be done. I’m assuming that the same thing could be said for making cyber bullying in general illegal. We can’t expect to have our every move on the internet policed, can we? It’s simply not practical.

    So yes, I’d love for cyber bullying to beomce illegal, I think it’s a great idea. But could someone please tell me how it would be policed?

  2. Kristal says

    Out of complete curiosity, how exactly would ‘banning’ this act work? Making cyber bullying (and bullying in general) illegal is a brilliant idea, but I would like to know how such a law would be policed.

    From what I was aware, and perhaps I was wrong, this sort of cyber bullying is harrassment and needs to be reported with proof so that something can be done. I’m assuming that the same thing could be said for making cyber bullying in general illegal. We can’t expect to have our every move on the internet policed, can we? It’s simply not practical.

    So yes, I’d love for cyber bullying to beomce illegal, I think it’s a great idea. But could someone please tell me how it would be policed?

  3. says

    Krystal

    The legislation referred to in this article won’t lead to policing the Internet. It is just a mechanism to punish those who are caught in the act, like the Missouri mother who tormented and harassed teenager Megan Meiers, an act which led directly to the girl’s suicide. The word ‘banning’ was never used.

    Like most legislation, it is only enacted to punish those cases which come to the attention of the Police. Like all other crimes, unless it is reported to the Police, no action will be taken against the offenders. But if a teenager is being bullied or harassed online, he or she can now report the incident to Police. Prior to this, there was nothing the Police could do about it as there was no law against it. Now there is a law in the US, those being bullied online or by mobile phone have a legal recourse to make it stop.

  4. says

    Krystal

    The legislation referred to in this article won’t lead to policing the Internet. It is just a mechanism to punish those who are caught in the act, like the Missouri mother who tormented and harassed teenager Megan Meiers, an act which led directly to the girl’s suicide. The word ‘banning’ was never used.

    Like most legislation, it is only enacted to punish those cases which come to the attention of the Police. Like all other crimes, unless it is reported to the Police, no action will be taken against the offenders. But if a teenager is being bullied or harassed online, he or she can now report the incident to Police. Prior to this, there was nothing the Police could do about it as there was no law against it. Now there is a law in the US, those being bullied online or by mobile phone have a legal recourse to make it stop.

  5. jane says

    Re Bullying & Blackmail:
    I am being bullied and threatened by a male on an auction site on the net. I feel murderous. I refuse to be bullied, blackmailed and/or threatened. However, I feel a great need to react violently against the person bullying me as I have had a lifetime of this crap and I am fed up with having to cop it.
    Kindly advise.

  6. jane says

    Re Bullying & Blackmail:
    I am being bullied and threatened by a male on an auction site on the net. I feel murderous. I refuse to be bullied, blackmailed and/or threatened. However, I feel a great need to react violently against the person bullying me as I have had a lifetime of this crap and I am fed up with having to cop it.
    Kindly advise.

  7. says

    Jane

    Resist all temptations to go on a murderous rampage for a start! If you haven’t done so already, report the guy to the auction site. The auction site won’t want to lose a customer, so they should take some action against him.

    As editor of an online women’s magazine and blog, I have been the target of cyber bullies on more than one occasion. So I can certainly understand why you are so angry. The thing about bullies is, if you ignore them, they will disappear.

  8. says

    Jane

    Resist all temptations to go on a murderous rampage for a start! If you haven’t done so already, report the guy to the auction site. The auction site won’t want to lose a customer, so they should take some action against him.

    As editor of an online women’s magazine and blog, I have been the target of cyber bullies on more than one occasion. So I can certainly understand why you are so angry. The thing about bullies is, if you ignore them, they will disappear.

  9. Kels says

    I am aware that you are able to take evidence to the police about incidents of cyber-bullying. What actions can they take if this is done? Is there laws that specifically prohibit acts of cyber-stalking/ harassment in Australia, or does this jsut come under legislation againt harassment etc. ??

  10. Kels says

    I am aware that you are able to take evidence to the police about incidents of cyber-bullying. What actions can they take if this is done? Is there laws that specifically prohibit acts of cyber-stalking/ harassment in Australia, or does this jsut come under legislation againt harassment etc. ??

  11. says

    To my knowledge there are no specific laws in Australia in regards to cyber-bullying. In regards to stalking and harassment – you will have to seek advice from the police in your state or territory.

  12. says

    To my knowledge there are no specific laws in Australia in regards to cyber-bullying. In regards to stalking and harassment – you will have to seek advice from the police in your state or territory.

  13. Jake says

    I don’t see why need need another law. Clearly the mother influenced the girl to kill herself. That’s already harassing, like saying to somebody: you should go kill yourself. I would have thought that is punishable by law already.

  14. Jake says

    I don’t see why need need another law. Clearly the mother influenced the girl to kill herself. That’s already harassing, like saying to somebody: you should go kill yourself. I would have thought that is punishable by law already.

  15. Jackie says

    Jake you are so right. It’s the same as a person hiring someone else to murder someone, it’s the same as INTENDING to murder which makes it premeditated.
    I was in a situation for along time where someone was trying to brainwash me and all sorts of things were happening including this:
    ‘The woman peered through the glass at me, leering and laughing, mocking my life and yelling out, “Go on…kill your self! Cut your throat…kill yourself…DO IT..Kill yourself..” and so on…I sat loking back at her thinking, ‘You think I WON’T.’ In a flash I cut my throat. She, in turn, panicked and ran around yelling, ‘She’s cut her throat she’s cut her throat…’etc.
    This woman was and still is in a place of fiduciary with Government.
    This is not an isolated incident yet she escapes charge, escapes conviction.
    She’s not the only one.If I had died it would have been put down to suicide as many other young lives now are which is so so wrong. Those instigating such action whether on a psychologocal, mental, emotional level et al., need very much to be held highly accountable and be subject to effective penalty. If they continue to go unnoticed even, then such tragedys as that of the beautiful young Megan Meiers will forever roam free amongst our communities and societies and, indeed the world.

  16. Jackie says

    Jake you are so right. It’s the same as a person hiring someone else to murder someone, it’s the same as INTENDING to murder which makes it premeditated.
    I was in a situation for along time where someone was trying to brainwash me and all sorts of things were happening including this:
    ‘The woman peered through the glass at me, leering and laughing, mocking my life and yelling out, “Go on…kill your self! Cut your throat…kill yourself…DO IT..Kill yourself..” and so on…I sat loking back at her thinking, ‘You think I WON’T.’ In a flash I cut my throat. She, in turn, panicked and ran around yelling, ‘She’s cut her throat she’s cut her throat…’etc.
    This woman was and still is in a place of fiduciary with Government.
    This is not an isolated incident yet she escapes charge, escapes conviction.
    She’s not the only one.If I had died it would have been put down to suicide as many other young lives now are which is so so wrong. Those instigating such action whether on a psychologocal, mental, emotional level et al., need very much to be held highly accountable and be subject to effective penalty. If they continue to go unnoticed even, then such tragedys as that of the beautiful young Megan Meiers will forever roam free amongst our communities and societies and, indeed the world.

  17. Jackie says

    I need to point out that, whilst the above post submitted by me, is not on cyber-bullying, the reality is that, everything that occurs online – and especially cyberbullying, is the direct and irreversible result of an inherent, OFF-LINE attitude deeply imbedded within the person and as such reflects if not expresses the breadth and depth of that inadequate quest for power over the other and the fulfilment of absented desire et al., that is although the underlying causes are varied the desired results are the same in that it always and inevitably means [intends] the destruction of the Other on one or more if not all levels unto even death of the other. There is no good option and, in the final analysis a decision has to be made in order to preserve human life…esp and including the lives of those vulnerable and naiave persons who being so very impressionable can be brought to the point of such great submission and end their own lives at the hands of such terror. For it is indeed terror instilled in the hearts and minds of such persons by the abject needs of the instigator / perpetrator that dictate such ultimate betrayal and death of hte other person.
    So many persons are exonerated from such actions as murder and instigating self-harm to the point of ddeath. Nothing short of being DIRECTOR of such murderous intent and should be therefore CHARGED UNDER LAW AND PROSECUTED. But then, the rich evidence is that, the system condones the death of innocence. I know.

  18. Jackie says

    I need to point out that, whilst the above post submitted by me, is not on cyber-bullying, the reality is that, everything that occurs online – and especially cyberbullying, is the direct and irreversible result of an inherent, OFF-LINE attitude deeply imbedded within the person and as such reflects if not expresses the breadth and depth of that inadequate quest for power over the other and the fulfilment of absented desire et al., that is although the underlying causes are varied the desired results are the same in that it always and inevitably means [intends] the destruction of the Other on one or more if not all levels unto even death of the other. There is no good option and, in the final analysis a decision has to be made in order to preserve human life…esp and including the lives of those vulnerable and naiave persons who being so very impressionable can be brought to the point of such great submission and end their own lives at the hands of such terror. For it is indeed terror instilled in the hearts and minds of such persons by the abject needs of the instigator / perpetrator that dictate such ultimate betrayal and death of hte other person.
    So many persons are exonerated from such actions as murder and instigating self-harm to the point of ddeath. Nothing short of being DIRECTOR of such murderous intent and should be therefore CHARGED UNDER LAW AND PROSECUTED. But then, the rich evidence is that, the system condones the death of innocence. I know.

  19. Jackie says

    PSS.
    Until and I mean UNTIL – the foundaiton of human belief systems within each individual, household, family, is addressed and ways of thinking and behaving are CHANGED, these things will always happen and remain open to discussion and comment while at the same time various and different things such as egroups, programs, penalties, etc will all mushroom BUT NOTHING WILL END IT ALL.Not until the underlying base attitudinal platform of ALL THINKING AND BEING/BEHAVING are addressed.
    For as long as people remain without a real value platform or confuse ways of thinking and being and have no real regard for their lives or the lives of others including animals, thenthings will not change. More peopel will’talk about’ it all but the real wound will not be closed and more wounds will be opened, more lives lost. Believe me. It’s a fact.

  20. Jackie says

    PSS.
    Until and I mean UNTIL – the foundaiton of human belief systems within each individual, household, family, is addressed and ways of thinking and behaving are CHANGED, these things will always happen and remain open to discussion and comment while at the same time various and different things such as egroups, programs, penalties, etc will all mushroom BUT NOTHING WILL END IT ALL.Not until the underlying base attitudinal platform of ALL THINKING AND BEING/BEHAVING are addressed.
    For as long as people remain without a real value platform or confuse ways of thinking and being and have no real regard for their lives or the lives of others including animals, thenthings will not change. More peopel will’talk about’ it all but the real wound will not be closed and more wounds will be opened, more lives lost. Believe me. It’s a fact.

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