Here’s an emotional account by the father of a Melbourne teenager who committed suicide last year after being relentlessly cyberbullied.

A few things that he said resonated with us:

  • Why asking teenagers to not use electronic devices does not address the problem. “It’s like a woman saying, ‘I want to dress in a certain way’ and people say ‘oh, if you go and dress like that you’re putting yourself in danger’ — you’re sort of taking away their liberties. Why should Jess have given up something because somebody else misused it?”
  • On cyberbullying itself: “It’s so easy to sit behind a computer screen and type something nasty and push the send button and think ‘ha, ha, I’ve done something,’ but the consequences on the other end could be like us — it destroys a family.”

Given that one in five Australian teenagers face cyberbullying, this is not an isolated experience. While not all teenagers (and adults for that matter) commit suicide, cyberbullying has been strongly linked to depression and anxiety.

The article does not share tips and resources for parents and children on tackling cyberbullying. This year, the Federal government set up the Office of e-Safety Commissioner to specifically tackle the problem of cyberbullying among children. Most importantly, it works both with the individual who is bullying and the social media platform to get the bullying content removed. (It has the power to fine social media platforms that don’t oblige). We urge parents, children and schools to visit the website, as it has a lot of helpful material on how to approach the problem. It also guides you through the reporting process to the Office.

Parents can also visit the Raising Children Website for further guidelines on how to prevent cyberbullying, how to identify if your child is being cyberbullied, and how to approach the problem, if you suspect it.

If you are facing cyberbullying on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, we also urge you to report it to OHPI’s online hate reporting tool FightAgainstHate.com, which has a section dedicated to reporting cyberbullying. While it doesn’t ensure that the offending material will come down, it helps in documentation of the content and in tracking the time taken to remove the material. By publicly documenting the content, we build accountability among social media platforms.

You can read all our publications on cyberbullying here. We have also built external resources on the subject of cyberbullying, which you can access here.

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