In Australia, Is Cyber Bullying A Growing Problem for Young People?

by Jason Shaw

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Discussion
    • Background
    • Case Study: Mobile Phones
    • Conventional Responses
    • Effects of Cyber Bullying
    • Policies
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations
  • References

Executive Summary

The emergence of new technology has also given birth to a new form of bullying called cyber bullying. Although, a relatively new phenomenon, this form of bullying has attracted a considerable degree of attention due to high profile cases, some of which have resulted to deaths of children. This report would outline how the issue came to be, emphasising in particular the severity of the problem and focus on the detrimental emotional, psychological and behavioural impact of cyber bullying on children.

  1. Introduction

Cyber bullying is a relatively new phenomenon which emerged with the recent popularity of the Internet as a form of communication, entertainment and arena for social interaction. This so-called cyber-bullying can be used as an evolution of conventional clandestine ways of bullying, Ken Rigby clarified, only this time it is done by utilising machines, the Internet and other technological devices. (p. 112) It is necessary to emphasise that bullying is always the same except in the technical context: it arises when a child is exposed to a constant stream of aggressive and intimidating actions and texts that trigger tension and anxiety and lack any ability to avoid it. In fact, the physical isolation of the bully and his victim is no longer relevant in terms of the frequency, nature and scope of damage sustained by the bullies and endured by the victims.

In Australia, Is Cyber Bullying A Growing Problem for Young People

  1. Discussion

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2.1 Background

In a 2005 Campbell survey it was found that about 14 percent of Australian children were harassed, receiving distressing messages from texts, cell phones, blogs, internet forums and chat rooms. In particular, these numbers are relevant in the light of current developments marked by the rising rate of cyber bullying and the harmful consequences of this type of violence faced by children around the world. That is why cyber bullying, as in other areas of the world, has been a primary concern in Australia, demanding urgent intervention by the authorities in particular.

2.2 Case Study: Mobile Phone

Suddenly, cell phones became an important accessory for children’s students when the technology started to provide interactive capabilities in addition to the simple calling functions. Text messaging has also lead to its appeal among young people. This is why it has shown to be a weapon to promote bullying when bullies send text messages and photographs and videos from cell phones that can be posted to the internet for general viewing either to insult, humiliate or damage other children. When used for intimidation, according to Eli Cohen, this causes trauma, increases the humiliation and victimization of those targeted than real life bullying, leading to anxiety, depression, truancy, self-harm, eating disorders or even suicide. In order to explain this, let us use an illustration from one of my interviews how a bully may victimize others:

Kyle and his friends are bullying Tim, an Asian immigrant from Korea. Since the latter cannot speak good English he was picked on often and was subjected to humiliating bouts of bullying. These were recorded on mobile phone camera and the videos has been sent around school and uploaded in the social networking web site MySpace where most of Kyle and Tim’s schoolmates were members. The humiliation it brought on Tim was so serious that he refused to go to school and even go out of their home. With the mobile phone video sent to other phones and uploaded to the Internet, the humiliation reached a wider audience and have permeated for a longer period.

Tim’s example demonstrates that cyber bullying could even be more serious than the traditional form of bullying among children.

2.3 Conventional Responses

In Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin’s research, in terms of minor bullying, children deal with cyber bullies with their own hands. As shown in the table 1, many victims simply blocked the bully from communicating with them. Obviously, this is effective in chat rooms, instant messaging and email bullying because most of these media allow the blocking of IDs, screen aliases and email addresses. The successful response, however, ends here because such response would only be effective on a short-term basis. The fact is that bullies can always assume different names and aliases or change email addresses and resume the cyber bullying again.

Source: Hinduja, Patchin, p. 62

It is important to note that most victims of cyber bullying do not report the incident on parents or other adults such s teachers or the police. There are a number of reasons for this. Hinduja and Patchin cited an important one: victims don’t want to be blamed for the behavior parents would clearly eliminate the root of the issue, and are always fearful,which is the computer or the cellular phone. (p. 61)

2.4 Effects of Cyber bullying

While majority of the emotional, psychological and behavioral effects of cyber bullying is related to the traditional kind of bullying, there are specific consequences that this particular case have on children. Hinduja and Patchin, for instance, have identified a link between cyber bullying victimization and adolescent problem behaviors, such as recent school difficulties, assaultive conduct, substance use and traditional bullying. (p. 65) Students targeted by cyber bullying became afraid to go to school and did what they could to stop going and being abused there, they said. An example first person account was provided:

This one day as I spoke to her online, this girl who was far bigger than me made me sob because she told me if she found she was going to cram me in a locker at school and me in a locker and for a very long time no one was going to find me. I faked a week and a half of illness before I find the confidence to go to school deep within me. Nothing negative was also happening. I was genuinely happy. (p. 65)

Cyber bullying can also lead children to commit suicide. A recent case was that of Ryan Halligan, a 13 year old boy from New York who in October 2003 committed suicide after being subjected to cyber bullying for months. He was taunted as “gay” and the rumor was spread online and at school. Ryan’s parents found this cyber bullying online as they were able to talk to classmates who assumed anonymity through chatrooms. Apparently, this gay rumor finally led to suicide when Ryan approached a girl at school and tried to cultivate a relationship with her. The girl, having learned of the rumor, rejected and mocked him. In a statement published in a website dedicated to Ryan’s suicide, his parents said:

It’s one thing to be bullied and humiliated in front of a few kids. It’s one thing to feel rejection and have your heart crushed by a girl. But it has to be a totally different experience then a generation ago when these hurts and humiliation are now witnessed by a far larger, online adolescent audience. (Halligan 2009)

Erica Frydenberg wrote that victims of bullying are more likely to display a resigned Non-Productive coping style. (p. 142) An example is the strategy of self-blame in dealing with uncontrollable stressors. This constitutes the psychological trauma that a child may experience and could include poor concentration, lower school achievement and the feeling of anger, anxiety and humiliation.

Furthermore, according to Kelsey and St. Amant, the emotional and psychological effects of cyber bullying documented to date are also consistent with those reported in a recent study on the effects of cyberostracism, or being ignored on the internet. (p. 345) This highlights the argument that cyber bullying takes the form of relational aggression, not unlike cyberostracism, which is geared towards damaging peer relationships. Kelsey and St. Amant emphasized, supporting what was previously stated in this report, that cyber bullying related results may be generated to those that would occur had the behavior taken place face-to-face. (p. 345)

2.5 Policies

A review on current governmental policies in regard to cyber bullying reveals the expected lack of attention to this phenomenon. This has been expected because the medium from which the bullying takes place an just an emergent technology and hence has not been sufficiently studied and documented. It is important hence, that future initiatives in this issue should be to further understand how and why cyber bullying happens and what are the typical reactions of victims particularly in regard to coping and whether they retaliate if they are assaulted by bullies. The body of literature on cyber bullying are still scarce presently but existing research have already established the reality and the growth of this phenomenon.

One of the most important factors that must be taken into consideration is that traditional approaches to dealing with bullying may not be applicable to cyber bullying. According to Kelsey and St. Amant, these strategies appear outdated when placed in the context of online behavior because of the challenges of the modern mediated environments that suggest the need for systematic approach to understanding the communicative mechanisms underlying cyber bullying as they seem central to any potential interventions. (p. 349)

  1. Conclusions

As this report has repeatedly stated, cyber bullying can be considered as a new phenomenon tied with the emergence of communication and information technology, particularly the internet and the mobile phones. It is part of the wider discourse of the ill-social effects of the Internet and the new media. This factor, however, appears irrelevant with the empirical evidence pointing to its existence, its seriousness and the danger it poses on Australian children today. Statistics reported alarming figures of cyber bullying among children. One should not forget that the most extreme effect has been demonstrated in the suicide of the 13-year old Ryan Halligan. The danger of cyber bullying lies not only with the fact that it has similar effects posed by traditional bullying. Rather, there is the added dimension of a mediated environment that makes it difficult for adults to intervene.

In addition, computers and cellular phones now occupy a significant proportion of the homes in which children reside and are frequently utilized for social, entertainment, academic and productivity requirements. With the unlimited access to these tools, children are in danger of cyber bullying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The above variables underscore the necessity for stakeholders to act on the problem immediately. Otherwise, more and more children would be adversely affected, compromising their psychological, emotional and behavioral well-being.  

  1. Recommendations

In regard to facts and factors that may lead to the formulation of policies and legislations, there is a bright spot in terms of the potential of technology. For example, sessions with the computer leaves record on computer hard disks and the servers and databases of certain websites, especially internet forums, emails and chat rooms. As a consequence, it is simpler to apprehend a bully and once punishment is meted, children may finally understand the wrongness of cyber bullying and, in effect, mitigate further incidence in the future.

Legislation and the implementation of policies against cyber bullying must also be considered. Presently, there are existing laws and proposals from various countries such as Japan, Singapore, Thailand and India in regard to cyber bullying. The experiences from these countries in regard to how cyber bullying are either criminalized, wherein offense is meted with imprisonment or fines; or subjected under civil law wherein cyber bullying is punished with compensation under common law of torts, such as libel and defamation.

5. References:
  • Campbell, M.A. 2005. “Cyberbullying: an old problem in a new guise. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling. 15: 68-76.
  • Cohen, Eli. 2008. Setting Knowledge Free: The Journal of Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology. Informing Science.
  • Frydenberg, Erica. 2008. Adolescent Coping: Advances in Theory, Research and Practice. Taylor and Francis.
  • Halligan, John. 1009. “If We Only Knew, If He Only Told Us.” Ryan’s Story. Retrieved 5 Jan. 2010 <>
  • Hinduja, Sameer and Patchin, Justin. 2008.
  • Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. Corwin Press.
  • Kelsey, Sigrid and St. Amant, Kirk. 2008. Handbook of Research on Computer-Mediated Communication. Idea Group.
  • Rigby, Ken. (2007). Bullying in schools: and what to do about it. Australian Council for Education Research.


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