The Western Australian Government announced yesterday that it will spend $400,000 on a world-first five year study into cyber-bullying, which effects 15% of WA school students.
The study is to be headed by Donna Cross, child behaviour expert from the Edith Cowan University, and will examine the extent of the problem and ways to deal and prevent it.
About 4,000 children from 40 schools will be involved and children from Queensland and South Australia will also be contacted to ensure the results are consistent. However, WA will be the main focus.
Professor Cross told The Australian that cyber-bullying was far worse than traditional forms of bullying because that you can be anonymous when they are attacking and could trigger paranoia as they would not known who was targeting them and will suspect everybody else.
“We know with traditional bullying that children experience depression, anxiety, they’re socially ostracised, they have physical health outcomes that harm them, they drop out of school, they achieve less,” she said.
“But with cyber bullying it cranks up to a toxic cocktail.”
She also said that cyber-bullying was most common among 11 to 16 year olds and cyber-bullying among girls were slightly more common than their male counterparts. The new study will see new skills for children, parents and teachers to identify bullying. She has also identified the use of video technologies were particularly worrying.
The use of mobile phones and the increasing social networking scene on the internet makes it harder to target cyber-bullying or who caused it. The Educational Minister Mark McGowan, according to The Australian, said that he was aware of children being photographed by their classmates in the bathing costumes and sent them out to their friends.
The use of MySpace, instant messaging and YouTube have not helped the efforts of preventing it as once it’s up on the internet – it is very hard to remove.