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Why cyber-bullying is everyone’s problem

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By Jodi Gibson

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The online world has been aghast over the past 24 hours in light of the events surrounding Australia's Next Top Model judge, Charlotte Dawson.

Ms. Dawson was the victim of a horrendous cyber-bullying attack via Twitter resulting in her hospitalisation in the early hours of Thursday morning. This incident is unfortunately not an isolated one. Cyber-bullying is occurring more and more frequently and this recent event only highlights the need for something to be done to make these online users more accountable for their actions.

Defamatory, insulting comments or threats of violence are never acceptable, whether it be face to face or from behind a keyboard. There needs to be consequences and laws put in place to protect people. Freedom of speech has gone too far.

Cyber-bullying is prevalent particularly on Facebook and Tumblr for our teenagers.

Just this week our 14 year old daughter posted on her Facebook account the following:

PLEASE READ: At 8pm I will be deactivating my Facebook and Tumblr accounts … I want to have a life.

Our mind immediately jumped to the worst case scenario. Was she being bullied? Had we missed the signs?

The online world is a tricky one for us parents to deal with. It is addictive, easily accessible and fraught with many dangers and risks that our kids’ young developing brains can’t yet comprehend. Dangers and risks from which no amount of boundaries and monitoring can protect them.

Ask any teen and they will be able to tell you stories about themselves or someone they know being cyber-bullied. Things have changed. Gone are the days when bullying occurred behind the lunch shed or behind the victim’s backs. Today the bullies act cowardly from the safety of their keyboard under anonymous or fictitious avatars, spewing forth an emotional torment of humiliation for all to see.

While our daughter has been exposed to some online bullying, her way of dealing with it has been to ignore it and her decision to close her Facebook and Tumblr accounts is one beyond her years. She simply wants to have a life, without becoming caught up in faceless and often nasty online scenarios. Unfortunately many teens who are bullied are not as strong and emotionally equipped to cope.

One of our daughter’s friends has a Tumblr page and some of the anonymous comments are so brazen they are beyond belief.

“you’re a filthy slut. everyone fucking hates you. You’re the fattest thing I’ve seen. ask anyone. they all agree! your such a bitch. some days i feel like putting you in a shallow grave. your ugly.”

 “wow. your actually really dumb. i would know because im in your class.. go back to primary school. dumb fuck”.

“im sorry, i just hate you so fucking much. you annoy the fuck out of me! fuck.”

You won’t need to look hard to find more stories like this and worse. Only recently the issue was highlighted with 19 year old Olivia Penpraze, who committed suicide after being subjected to horrific and shocking cyber-bulling.

It makes me terribly sad to think what some of these kids are dealing with and to know that many will not tell their parents fearing further embarrassment, shame and concern that their online world will be taken away from them.

So what can you do to ensure your child is protected online?

When this kind of thing is going on in the adult world such as with Charlotte Dawson, it is obvious what we are doing is not working.

There’s no doubt it’s a huge problem, and we can and should lobby for change to current harassment laws to ensure that they can be enforced and applied to the online world.

As adults, we are supposed to be setting an example for the next generation on what is right and what is wrong. This need to start at home.

Talk to your kids from an early age about respect, manners and empathy. Speak with them about bullying, what it is and how it impacts the other person. Set online boundaries and guidelines and monitor their presence.

Engage and be plugged into your child’s behavior. Be aware of any changes in behavior no matter how slight or insignificant they may seem. Take note of changes in their attitude, other than the ‘normal’ teen mood swings, withdrawing from communicating with you, receding from social situations, changes in the way they interact with siblings; these are all signs to be aware of.

Our daughter’s situation, and that of her friend, was a reminder to us to continue to stay aware and be plugged in.

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak out against these bullies. Make them accountable. Rally for change not only in our laws, but also the user agreements and responsibility of social networking sites which currently make it so easy for anonymous users to set up fake accounts.

Make it happen. It is not okay. Stand up now.

If you think cyber-bullying is everyone’s problem, why not share this with your friends by  “liking” this article below.

Have you or your child been attacked by cyber-bullies? How did you deal with it? Leave a comment below.

If you need to speak with someone please contact Lifeline – 13 11 14 and www.lifeline.org.au or Beyond Blue at www.beyondblue.org.au

For more information on cyber-bullying please visit cybersmart.gov.au

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Jodi Gibson - to view all of Jodi's blog post click here

Jodi Gibson, a.k.a. Lipgloss Mumma, is a freelance writer, blogger, self-published non-fiction author and aspiring fiction author. In her spare time she, usually unsuccessfully, juggles being a wife, mothering four girls and running two businesses. Jodi is a constant dreamer, chaser of wisdom and lover of music trivia and cycling.

Website: http://www.jfgibson.com.au

  • Thanks Jodi, we really do need to become more aware of what our kids are being subjected to.
    My daughter is only 9, and I’m scared about what she may have to deal with.
    I agree that the best way is to be informed about their social interactions.
    Well done to your daughter for having such a mature and responsible point of view.
    I may be naive, but just wish that they could stay kids for a little longer, they’re being told to grow up too quickly.
    Lisa x

    • I agree Lisa. Oh for our children to be wide-eyed and innocent again. I do think the explosion of the online culture in recent years is changing the landscape in which our children grow and learn, good ways and unfortunately the bad ways also.
      It is time to take a stand and get back to basics with our kids.
      And yes, it definitely was a proud parenting moment for us x

  • I find this bullying epidemic to be abhorrent. How does it even enter someones mind to speak like that to another human being. Who is bringing up these people? It would never cross my mind to say something so ugly to someone, I’m not even sure I think such ugly thoughts to start with.

    • I know – I was thinking the same thing. How does a person even think of such things. It’s both disgusting and scary at the same time.

    • I agree, I would never consider even thinking those thoughts and it is so sad that some obviously do without care for the real outcome on the other side. Horrible.

  • Yeah, It’s a big problem now a days. But i believe every problem has a great solutions. Yeah, All of you are right. There is a good solution to parenting online to keep our child safe from such problem. It is a software called PG Guard. I have mentioned it’s features following.

    -PG guard is a simple to use service that safeguards children on facebook.
    -PG guard safeguards children regardless of devices they use or their location.
    -PG guard constantly monitors your child’s entire social environment.
    -PG guard uses unique artificial intelligence algorithms to profile each user.
    -Each social interaction is analyzed according to the profiles of the users involved.
    -PG guard informs parents of suspicious interactions in child’s social environment.
    -PG guard allows parents to educate, encourage and set boundaries online.

    for more details you can visit https://pgguard.com/ here

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