With the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence approaching on 16 March, the eSafety and Mental Health Steering Group is urging Australians to understand the realities of cyberbullying and its nexus to online wellbeing.
Parents and educators are understandably concerned about this issue, and so are we, as some of the country’s leading online safety and mental health organisations.
Recent focus on the serious issue of cyberbullying in the media has further raised concerns and ignited an important national discussion.
There’s no question that technology is becoming a more persistent fixture in young people’s lives, and as this occurs the number of young people experiencing cyberbullying may increase. We also acknowledge the strong parental concerns about this issue, and that more needs to be done to tackle this problem.
But it is important to note that over the past five years consistent research demonstrates that the rate of young Australians who have been cyberbullied remains at one in five. This is one in five too many, and there are a number of efforts underway to tackle these issues on several fronts. No one should experience cyberbullying.
What is of concern to the child support and mental health community are recent reports that cyberbullying directly and inevitably leads to suicide. Research shows that suicide is in fact a complex, individualised tragedy with multiple contributing factors, of which cyberbullying may be one.
There is nothing more devastating than the loss of a child and we, as a collective, want to prevent future tragedies from happening. Suggesting there is such a direct link between cyberbullying and suicide may contribute to a copycat effect. This may lead vulnerable teens and children to consider suicide as a viable option, before seeking out other forms of available support. Mindful discussions about suicide and the contributing factors can change public misperceptions and correct myths, and also encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.
We believe that we need to reframe the discussion around suicide and online wellbeing, and give parents, educators and young people the tools they need to understand the issues, problem solve and engage constructively. We have world leading cyberbullying and mental health services and advice available, including evidence-based e-mental health services. We want to make sure Australians know where these services sit, and can access them.
We want to acknowledge that the online world can be a powerful force for good—building community and resilience, and providing access to education and support. Many young people turn to online spaces first when seeking help for issues with their mental health. All of our organisations here can help parents, educators and young people themselves find solutions-based pathways for their specific situation and can help improve their mental health and online wellbeing.
This National Day of Action, we want young people to know they do not need to suffer in silence, or alone, and that there is indeed help.
Our collective call to action for #NDA2018 includes:
- For parents concerned about cyberbullying, talk to your child early and often about what they are doing online. Let them know you’re there to help, no matter what.
- For young Australians experiencing cyberbullying, we encourage them to report the cyberbullying to the eSafety Office at esafety.gov.au, to help get cyberbullying material taken down from social media sites.
- For Australians in need of psychological support, help with online issues, and support with bullying there are a range of mental health services, online safety and anti-bullying organisations that can assist: Well being hub
- For guidelines on responsible reporting of suicide and mental wellbeing, go to: mindframe-media.info.
- Australian Multicultural Foundation
- Black Dog Institute
- Butterfly Foundation
- Carly Ryan Foundation
- Kids Helpline
- Lifeline Australia Foundation
- Minus 18
- Office of the eSafety Commissioner
- Project RockIt
- SANE Australia