The eSafety Commissioner is cautioning parents to be conscious of the devastating effects of cyber bullying as we head into the new school year.
Marking the one-year anniversary of eSafety’s controversial new powers on Monday, commissioner Julie Inman Grant warned the commission is continuing to see “the tenor and tone of this youth-driven cyberbullying content escalating to concerning levels”.
“Cyberbullying complaints have continued their post-pandemic surge since the [Online Safety] Act came into force, increasing by over 69 per cent compared to the previous calendar year,” she said.
“I urge everyone to be mindful of online safety ahead of the return to school, when we typically see reports of cyberbullying spike.
“If you are a target or need more information or support, please contact us at eSafety.gov.au. Information is also available for concerned parents and school leaders seeking to protect their students while delivering a strong deterrent message.”
In the first 12 months since the Act came into effect, the eSafety commissioner has made 500 informal requests for cyberbullying content to be removed from digital platforms.
It also made six formal requests to service providers for adult abuse content to be either removed or geo-blocked from Australia.
All told, eSafety received 1,680 individual cyberbullying complaints in its first year but the government is trying to raise awareness that support is available for people suffering abuse online.
“We know that too many young children are being bullied online,” Communications Minister Michelle Rowland told the ABC.
“We want to ensure that people know where to complain and have the tools – and awareness of those tools – available to them.”
Use of the internet among young people continues to be an area fraught with difficulty as society looks to ways of protecting children from the harms of the internet – and the exploitation of their attention to collect personal data – without impacting on their ability to express themselves and find communities online.
A world-first longitudinal study into the impact of digital technologies from birth is currently underway at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child.
Meanwhile, recent research from the University of Sydney Business school explored internet addiction among teens which found that, unintuitively, teens with more supportive parents reported higher levels of compulsive internet use.
Low levels of neglect lead to higher levels of internet addiction which may, in turn, increase the risk of being subject to cyberbullying or other online abuse.
“There are several ways parents can manage the threat of internet addiction,” said Dr James Donald, lead investigator in the study.
“They can take no action, co-use or joint access the internet, discuss usage in a positive way, monitor, and/or set rules and limits, which may involve punishment.
“We speculate that refraining from mediation may be popular with youth and even lead them to perceive their parents as being more supportive.
“However, previous studies have found parental refraining is associated with increased compulsive internet use. This ‘popular parents, compulsive youth’ explanation appears consistent with our results.”