26 September 2023

School holiday ends lead to cyberbullying

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As we prepare for children going back to school, eSafety has urged parents and carers to talk with their children about online safety, reacting to the serious cyberbullying involving under 14s which more than tripled last year compared to pre-pandemic 2019.

Acting Commissioner at eSafety, Toby Dagg said May this year was also the biggest reporting month on record since eSafety’s cyberbullying scheme started in July 2015.

“Many parents are telling us they’ve found it hard to limit screen time since the pandemic,” Mr Dagg said.

“While greater device use might be the new norm, with it comes the need to understand how children are living out this part of their lives,” Mr Dagg said.

He said that in 2019, eSafety received a little over 200 complaints from children aged eight to 13 years, jumping to almost 740 in 2022.

“We’re pleased that more Australian children and young people know we’re here to support them when platforms fail to act but the number of complaints from children in school years 5, 6 and 7 is concerning and continues to grow,” Mr Dagg said.

“We received around 230 cyberbullying complaints in May this year alone and around 100 of these involved children aged eight to 13 experiencing this kind of harm,” he said.

“Nasty comments, offensive pictures or videos, and impersonation accounts are among the most reported issues.”

Mr Dagg said he expected to see a greater number of reports from children who had reached 13, which was the minimum user age recommended by most social media apps.

“However, children as young as eight are coming to eSafety in deep distress,” he said.

“The cyberbullying we’re seeing is increasingly sophisticated and deceitful. For example, children are setting up imposter accounts to undermine the reputation of their bullying target, triggering yet more abuse from other children.”

“We encourage parents to show an interest in the games their children play online,” he said, “and the profiles they follow on social media – just as they would make time to throw a ball at a local park or play a board game.

“Being plugged into what your child is doing can help you anticipate when they might need support and advice,” he said.

Mr Dagg said regardless of your child’s age, eSafety.gov.au has resources to help parents and carers be positive role models and online safety advocates.”

Online safety information for parents and carers, can be accessed at this PS News link and online safety webinars for them is on this link.

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