Dubbo schools fight against cyber bullying


DUBBO schools are fighting cyber bullying by including parents and students in information seminars.

Police, who are working with the schools, said parents could play an important role on the home front to help cut incidents of cyber bullying. 

Orana Local Area Command Senior Constable Martin Paice said the majority of the time cyber bullying went undetected in the home because parents were unfamiliar with the technology. 

“My main point of advice to people would be to actually sit down with your child and go through the social media sites they’re using,” he said.

“Get involved and show some interest in what sites they’re using.” 

Through these techniques, Senior Constable Paice said he had seen a decrease in cyber bullying across Dubbo. 

“Certainly when Facebook first came on to our radar, we saw a lot of direct cyber bullying,” he said. 

“As it has developed over the years, young people have caught on to the fact you can control your page and who can contact you.

“Students in schools are certainly getting wiser with the increasing security settings, but there’s always going to be the need to reiterate the information.”

Public schools do not tolerate any form of cyber bullying, a spokesperson for the Department of Education and Communities (DEC) said.

“Even though it invariably occurs outside school hours, it is expected that public schools will investigate and follow through with disciplinary action if school-related cyber bullying is reported. Each school has a published anti-bullying policy which is developed within the school community,” the spokesperson said.

“While these policies will vary from school to school, every school seeks to engage parents in the disciplinary process and expects their support in having their child behave more appropriately towards other students.”

Centacare Dubbo psychologist Sarah Horsburgh said from her observations cyber bullying in Dubbo schools occurred at a similar rate to the rest of the country. 

“Cyber bullying is repeated, unwanted contact,” Ms Horsburgh said.

“It’s generally in the form of messages containing threats, intimidation, and unwanted comments but can also be in sharing of embarrassing images or creating fake profiles.” 

Ms Horsburgh said a young person who was experiencing cyber bullying might feel as though they were unable to escape as the bully could access them at any time, anywhere, as long as the device was turned on.

“Young people feel overwhelmed and isolated when they are victimised and this can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, school refusal, social phobias and in severe cases, suicidality,” Ms Horsburgh said.

A common theme she had seen was children and young people not reporting cyber bullying due to fear of their parent’s response.

“They worry they will be banned from using social media,” she said.

“I’m finding that for children and young people, the alienation of not being part of the social media world is an equally upsetting prospect as the bullying itself.”

What can parents do to prevent cyber bullying:

* Become familiar with how different sites work and how your children are using them.

* Facilitate open conversation with your children about their social media use.

* Set boundaries for social media use i.e. time limits, acceptable behaviour, safety etc.

* Sit down and set up your child’s profiles and accounts with them. This will ensure that privacy settings are on. 

What can parents do if their child is being cyber bullied:

* Block individuals who are engaging in bullying.

* Report abuse and bullying to social media site administrators (Facebook and Instagram both have options for reporting content)

* Contact police, particularly in the case of repeated harassment and intimidation and/or if the bully is making threats.

* Seek the support of a psychologist or school counsellor.