Image of a young boy sitting in the dark in front of a laptop and holding his head in worry

Exposing the Steep Cost of Australia’s Cyber Bullying Problem

Did you know that at least 8 million Australians have experienced cyber bullying at some point? That’s around 39% of the total Australian population, and the problem’s only getting worse. According to this report, these bullies don’t just make people feel bad about themselves and cause devastating harm, they are also affecting the country’s economy.

A survey done by the Australia Institute which involved a nationally representative group covering various genders, ages, states, and territories shed key insights on this issue. Based on the results, online trolling and cyber bullying costs the Australian economy over $3.7 billion per year. Online harassment is a major issue facing many people, and it’s important to understand the financial consequences of the problem as well.

What Is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying occurs when bullies use digital devices and technologies to harass someone or make them feel threatened, scared, sad, or embarrassed. Online bullies, also known as cyber bullies and cyber trolls, usually send their targets abusive and hurtful messages as well as offensive photos and threats. In fact, cyber bullying has become a recognised public health crisis in Australia.

This kind of bullying is often extremely persistent because it’s so easy to send multiple and anonymous messages online. Cyber bullies use all kinds of technologies to spread their hatred and find new victims, including:

  • Mobile phones
  • Social media sites
  • Email
  • Websites (e.g. forums)
  • Multimedia services (e.g. Photoshop)

Who Cyber Bullying Affects

Cyber bullying can affect anyone, but certain groups are especially vulnerable. Research shows that females are more at risk than males—44% of women who responded to the Australia Institute survey had experienced bullying compared with 34% of men.

Worryingly, young people are most at risk. Last year, for the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, the Australia Institute discovered that one in four Australian students suffer cyber bullying every few weeks. 72% of Australian schools report cyber bullying incidents, and the youth service, Kids Helpline, reports that over 80% of their calls concern online bullying.

The most common type of cyber bullying, according to the Institute’s survey, is abusive language. Other common incidents include sexual harassment and, even worse, death threats.

The Financial Cost of Cyber Bullying

So, how does cyber bullying cost money? Through its long-term effects on someone’s life and their mental well-being. The Institute reported that six survey respondents suffered prolonged, long-term cyber bullying. One respondent endured cyber bullying for 10 years.

Victims are at risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and they may even suffer from physical injuries. These medical bills add up in the long-term. Similarly, the costs of fighting cyber bullying in court mean expensive legal bills.

The costs that the Institute identified include:

  • Medical expenses up to $250,000
  • Legal bills up to $100,000
  • Travel costs
  • Moving costs (some victims have moved numerous times to try to escape bullies)

And these figures don’t account for the income or earnings families of victims lose as a result of cyber bullying. Depending on the case, the situation can become really severe that cyber bullying’s effects such as the need to move to avoid bullies can affect a family’s earning potential and lifestyle.

Sometimes, it ends tragically. Charlotte Dawson, an Australia’s Next Top Model judge, killed herself because she couldn’t face the online trolls any longer. Put simply, cyber bullying places unfair financial and emotional burdens on victims and their families.

What’s Being Done

The good news is that Australia now recognises the steep cost of cyber bullying. There’s increasing pressure on the government to tackle cyber trolls and the associated financial costs. Journalists and other public figures are opening up and sharing their stories to help victims feel less alone. Organisations and platforms are being created to reduce bullying online, and educating young people on how their words and actions might harm someone. And, most importantly, victims no longer feel like they need to suffer in silence, or that they’re somehow to blame for the abuse.

At Starshell Student, we take cyber bullying extremely seriously. We stand against it every day. And, through our innovative platform that filters offensive online content and educates young people to become responsible social media users, you have the capability to help your children and students effectively deal with cyber bullying and its ill-effects. For more information about cyber bullying and how to stay safe online, contact us today.

Image of a teen girl in front of a computer covering her face with her hands and a hand with a pointing index finger is coming out of the computer monitor

Cyber Bullying, a Public Health Issue Affecting Australia’s Youth

Research from the youth charity Reach Out has revealed that an overwhelming number of Australian children experience cyber bullying. Using a nationally representative survey of people aged between 14 and 25, it found that up to 380,000 children experienced cyber bullying in 2017 alone. In some cases, the bullying became so severe that those who experienced it sought medical advice for their mental health.

Using this survey’s results and concerns commonly expressed by parents, it’s possible to argue that cyber bullying is now becoming a public health issue. Another study from Kings College has revealed that online bullying can lead to anxiety, depression, and impulsivity. As conditions that can all affect a person’s ability to focus, complete tasks, and socialise, it’s important not to ignore them.

Why address cyber bullying as a public health issue?

As the evidence that cyber bullying negatively affects mental well-being is mounting, it’s clear it can have a broader long-term impact on health at a population level. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. The WHO recognises the severity of the condition and so it treats it as one of its primary targets for improvement.

For its part, the Australian Government recognises that depression can have a significant impact on the sufferer’s life. One of the biggest concerns is that it can cause young people to stop engaging with their schoolwork. Additionally, they may choose to withdraw from family and friends. If this is the effect that cyber bullying is having, tackling it as a cause of depression is crucial if young people are going to develop into thriving adults. That said, it’s no question that cyber bullying can also lead to more extreme consequences.

How concerned are parents about the effects of cyber bullying?

No parent likes the idea of their child experiencing bullying in any way or form. According to the aforementioned Reach Out study, many now see it as a bigger threat to their children’s well-being than alcohol and smoking. One of the biggest challenges with this is that parents may find it easier to keep their children away from alcohol and cigarettes. Due to the insidious nature of cyber bullying and the fact that it takes place online, it isn’t as easy to resolve.

As one-in-three young people experience some form of online bullying, it’s clear that both parents and teachers must take a proactive approach to stopping it. One way to approach this is to utilise the same technologies that make cyber bullying possible such as the internet and digital services through options such as parental controls and online monitoring tools.

What is being done to reduce cyber bullying incidents?

Different organisations such as Reach Out have begun asking the platforms where cyber bullying takes place to take more effective steps towards stopping it. This includes calling for safety standards that make social networks such as Facebook a safer place for its users, especially the youth. Interestingly, they’re also focusing on games such as Fortnite, and they’re calling on parents to help their children access safer versions of online games.

Although it’s reasonable to expect organisations and schools to begin making greater efforts towards preventing cyber bullying, parents should become more proactive as well. Useful approaches towards addressing cyber bullying and its effects can include online awareness and having a culture of open communication that reassures children and students that experiencing bullying is nothing to be ashamed of and that they can always ask for help. By creating a more honest dialogue, they may feel empowered to seek help when they need it most.At Starshell Student, we’ve developed a platform that aims to help protect both students and young people from cyber bullying and deal with it the right way. It functions both as a prevention and education tool that filters potentially harmful social media content and helps transform the youth into responsible users of social media. Contact us today to know more.