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.