Cyber bullying a breach of human rights

STEPHEN LONG: And in the world of the web is cyber bullying an abuse of human rights? The answer’s yes according the Australian Human Rights Commission. It’s developing a new anti-cyber bullying campaign with researchers at Edith Cowan University.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: Cyber bullying is when a child or teenager is threatened, harassed or humiliated by another child or teenager using the internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.

Catherine Branson QC is the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission. She says the damage caused by cyber bullying can last a lifetime.

CATHERINE BRANSON: Look we know that cyber bullying can affect large numbers of people and can intimidate them and in some cases leave them with lasting emotional damage.

We know that in particular it can affect young people through social networking sites and indeed through their mobiles phone.

ALISON CALDWELL: So serious is the issue that the commission has established a partnership with the Child Health Promotion Research Centre at Edith Cowan University to develop a new anti cyber bullying campaign.

Catherine Branson explains.

CATHERINE BRANSON: What we’re particularly anxious to do is to partner with real experts in the field and develop a campaign that young people will have been involved in developing from the very beginning to get a campaign that young people will identify with, that they will understand and that they feel is right for them.

ALISON CALDWELL: The issue is in the media almost daily. There are advertising campaigns which deal with cyber bullying. How do you think your campaign will help in particular?

CATHERINE BRANSON: Well look, it is terribly important that there be consistent messages and there not be duplication of effort around this important area. So that’s why we are working with relevant government agencies, with industry players, with some of the community sector and, most importantly, with young people themselves to make sure that we do devise a project that is likely to be truly effective and that will not be duplicating the efforts of others.

ALISON CALDWELL: What should a young person do if they see cyber bullying happening, if they witness it?

CATHERINE BRANSON: This program that we’re hoping to develop, we hope will develop innovative new anti cyber bullying strategies for young people but we know that there are important things already that can be done.

Refusing to play the bullying game oneself is important. Speaking with your friends that you won’t be involved in bullying, you won’t re-transmit bullying or harassing messages.

If someone is being bullied who seeks your help, go with them to someone in authority that can provide the help. You know simple steps like that can really make a difference.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Child Health Promotion Research Centre at Edith Cowan University studied the strategies being used by schools, families and students to combat the effects of cyber bullying.

Dr Laura Thomas is a senior researcher with the centre.

LAURA THOMAS: There’s a great deal of young people who are bystanders to cyber bullying situations and so it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to maximise the opportunities for young people to become aware of this issue and to be able to learn about what they can do to respond.

ALISON CALDWELL: Young people are classically seen as pretty apathetic. How do you convince them to get involved in a campaign like this?

LAURA THOMAS: I think that young people are much better at this than we give them credit for. I think they really do want to get involved. It’s just that they don’t know how to do so. So we need to give them strategies not just about what they need to do but how they can go about it. And they’re really motivated when young people themselves come up with those ideas.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Australian Human Rights Commission hopes the partnership will become a major force in countering the adverse impacts and often irreparable damage caused by cyber bullying.

STEPHEN LONG: Alison Caldwell.


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