The AMA applauds action by the Government to crack down on cyber bullying of children, with legislation introduced to Parliament 3 December 2014.
AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said the Government will appoint a Children’s E-Safety Commissioner with the powers to order cyber bullying material that targets children to be removed from social media sites and other electronic communication devices.
A/Prof Owler said the Government is to be commended for taking tough action on a tricky social and health issue, which requires a fine balance to satisfy differing views on how to meet the online cyber bullying challenge.
“The harm in the community being caused by cyber bullying demanded a strong response,” A/Prof Owler said.
“Too many young people are taking their own lives or inflicting self-harm, and bullying can often be an underlying factor.
“Many factors contribute to this tragic situation, and the preference of children and young people to interact with each other online is obviously a major one.
“This online activity exposes them to a form of bullying that is difficult to escape from.
“Many children in Australia are happy and healthy, but some children are clearly not, and they are vulnerable and susceptible to bullying.
“Not all children and young people who are cyber bullied will have suicidal thoughts or engage in self harming behaviour, but the sad reality is that there are documented cases of suicide resulting from cyber bullying.
“It is important that we act to reduce such instances, and today’s moves by the Government are a good start.
“Healthy use of the internet and online safety is a fairly new area of activity that requires new thinking and new regulation.
“The Children’s E-Safety Commissioner will have a significant role raising awareness, and in educating children, young people, parents, and guardians about how to navigate the internet as safely as possible.
“The Commissioner will also provide children and young people affected by cyber bullying a new avenue to raise concerns, and to get support in resolving online safety problems.
“The establishment of the Children’s E-Safety Commissioner recognises that access to the internet is a fundamental feature in the lives of many Australian children and young people, which requires vigilance, safety, and security,” A/Prof Owler said.
A/Prof Owler acknowledges the key role of Paul Fletcher, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, in bringing this legislation to the Parliament.
- cyber bullying can have very significant impacts on the lives of children and young people by affecting their physical and mental health (eg. physical injury, stress related illness and depression), their leisure and play (noting that leisure time may largely be online), their education, and their ability to lead a private life;
- the ABS report, 3303.0-Causes of Death Australia 2012 (2014), found that intentional self-harm is the leading cause of death among Australian children and young people aged 15-24 years, with 214 deaths by males and 110 by females in 2012. For those aged 15-19 years, intentional self-harm accounted for 21.9 per cent of deaths in males and 32.6 per cent in females. Six males and eight females under 15 years of age died due to intentional self-harm;
- according to the National Children’s Rights Report 2014, Kids Helpline, Australia’s national telephone crisis and counselling service for those aged 5-25 years, in 2013 facilitated 9,649 counselling sessions with children and young people who were assessed by the counsellor as having current thoughts of suicide. Kids Helpline also responded to 15,948 contacts from children and young people aged 5-25 years who were assessed to have self-injury and self-harming behaviour;
- the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (2009) found that 27 per cent of students in Years 4-9 were bullied every few weeks. Instances of bullying appeared to spike in Years 5 and 8; and
- Australian research presented earlier this year indicates that face to face bullying is more common among children and young people, but this must be considered with some caution, as children and young people may be reluctant to report instances of cyber bullying due to fear that their access to the internet will be restricted.
If you or someone you know is being bullied, get help by contacting your family doctor or by calling:
- Kids Helpline1800 55 1800
- headspace 1800 65 0890
Source: Australian Medical Association (AMA)