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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.

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What You Can Do to Protect Your Kids from Online Bullying

As a growing public health issue, cyber bullying has become a problem in schools throughout Australia. Around 20% of children experience cyber bullying, with 17% of them encountering it every week. If you’re a concerned parent or teacher who wants to protect their kids or students from cyber bullying and its ill-effects, we have some tips you may find useful in reaching that goal.

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Why Do Cyber Bullying Victims Keep Hearing “You Brought It on Yourself”?

When someone comes forward about cyber bullying, all too often their concerns are dismissed—or, worse, they’re told that they brought the situation on themselves. As with many other forms of abuse, the victim is sometimes told that they’re responsible for their own abuse. A new research published in Computers in Human Behavior links the amount of blame the victim receives to the aspect of social attractiveness.

Cyber bullying is now increasingly being seen as a public health crisis in Australia. In fact, approximately one-third of kids has experienced cyber bullying. However, only a few report the incidents to adults or the authorities. This can lead to more victims experiencing depression and anxiety, sometimes with life-threatening results.

One reason victims may hesitate before coming forward is the fear that they’ll be blamed for the cyber bullying behaviour of others. The new research attempted to understand and go deeper into this issue.

Why are Victims Blamed?

The British University conducting the research had more than 100 undergraduates examine screenshots of eight artificially created Facebook feeds. After looking at the feeds, the “victims” were rated by social attractiveness and how responsible they were for their behaviour. Researchers found direct correlations between the perception of social attractiveness and victim blaming.

What researchers saw was that if the victim received a significant amount of bullying from a single source, they were less likely to be blamed. However, when the victim received a low volume of bullying from a single source, they were more likely to be blamed. In the second case, it was assumed that something about themselves had caused the bullying or that they were somehow responsible for the hurtful things said.

In the first case, however, researchers believe that occasional bullying comments from a single source aren’t thought of as bullying, but as socially acceptable teasing or banter, especially when two people are going back and forth regularly.

What is Social Attractiveness?

Social attractiveness has to do with more than just whether someone looks good or not. Those who are seen as socially attractive are deemed likeable enough to receive attention from others. Also, if we can identify with or relate to someone better, they have a higher social attractiveness rating.

Interestingly, researchers found that victims were thought to be less socially attractive if they were only bullied occasionally by a single source. When they were bullied often by a single source, they were perceived as being more socially attractive, which seems to earn them less blame for the behaviour of others according to the study. Since we see the person as likeable and similar to us, we have more sympathy for them. Those who seem less socially attractive are more likely to be blamed for being bullied online or offline.

How Does This Affect Cyber Bullying Responses?

It’s important that parents and educators to not dismiss bullying as “kids being kids” and instead look at comments that can be interpreted as being malicious or abusive. Even if someone “didn’t mean it,” the impact of their words needs to be considered as carefully—if not more so—as their intent.

And it’s important to remember that children and students can both be victims and the cyber bullies themselves. It’s important for parents to watch out for both, and not assume that because their child is being bullied, they would never bully another kid. In all this, however, it should be clear that being bullied is never the victim’s fault.

At StarShell Student, we’ve created a platform that acts as a social media monitoring tool that filters online content and updates to protect children and students from the ill-effects of cyber bullying. It also acts as an educational platform that helps turn the youth into responsible users of social media. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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Simple Yet Effective Ways to Prevent Online Bullying

There’s no denying that the online world comes with many advantages for young people. It makes it easier for them to research school topics, communicate with their friends, have fun, and learn about other cultures, people, and places.

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