Home' InDaily : April 30th 2010 Contents Standard statistics say one in
10 Australian teenagers is
likely to be the victim of cyber
bullying but the real figure could be
even higher, according to a nation-
ally recognised authority.
"This figure is only the one we
know about through self-report-
ing," said online bullying expert
Dr Barbara Spears, a UniSA senior
lecturer and program director.
"If one in 10 kids are reporting
it, how many are not? It s bound to
be more than that, simply because
some individuals don t recognise
bullying and therefore don t report
it."While social media such as
Facebook and MySpace has been
hailed by the isolated and those
seeking to reconnect with their
past, it is also capable of bringing
Internet awareness and the use
of social media deeply concern
those involved with young people,
particularly parents and educators.
Tatachilla Lutheran College at
McLaren Vale is hosting a talk
on cyberbullying by renowned
psychologist Dr Michael Carr-
Gregg on May 13, and Adelaide
girls school Seymour College has
sent letters to its students during
the recent school holidays warning
of a relatively new internet site (see
"Anonymous insults sting from
new internet site", right).
Recent anecdotal evidence has
brought the new technology into
sharp focus for many parents.
One 11-year-old Adelaide primary
school student was greeted at the
gate when he came back from school
holidays last week by the principal
ordering him to return home to
remove derogatory comments about
the school from his Facebook wall.
Such comments can be found by
school computer technicians who
regularly monitor the internet for
such comments. While computer-
users can deny them access to
their Facebook site, technicians
can enter it simply by keying in
the school s name and calling up a
cached (stored) item if it comes up
under their search.
"The fact is nothing is private
online," Dr Spears said. "If the
information is there it can be
accessed. Young people need to
realise once it is there it is there
For this reason, it was important
for internet users to adopt the rule
of thumb: What goes online stays
online, she said.
At one SA high school, a teenager
became a victim of sexting, after a
former boyfriend had taken nude
photos of her on his mobile phone
which he later sent to various
other mobile phones. The girl was
traumatised, police were called
and students have been advised
to remove the images from their
Another incident involved a
rural teenager whose comment on a
recent local road tragedy attracted
more than 300 hate mail replies.
She had been left shaken and the
parents devastated and wondering
what resources are available to
them. She had also been subject to
racial bullying. (see "A race against
The digital age has been
embraced by young people who
have incorporated it seamlessly
into their lives, but for many par-
ents it s a frightening new world.
They look on as their children make
no distinction between online and
"Young people are digital natives
-- online and offline their worlds are
the same," Dr Spears said.
This meant children could be
bullied in most places.
"Cyber-bullying is boundary-less.
It s 24/7," Dr Spears said.
This is why parents are often
counseled to remove their
children s mobile phones and
computers from their rooms so they
have at least one "safe" place to
which they can retreat.
Dr Spears said there were no laws
against bullying, only stalking and
"What we are trying to under-
stand is where the jurisdiction is,"
Technology is an integral part
of young people s social world
and means they socialise in a
completely different way to their
"Young people are using it pre-
dominantly to help with ordinary
planning, mapping, communicat-
ing, where they re going to go, who
they re going to meet," she said.
Young people act out their
relationships online, while parents
act theirs out offline.
"We re caught in a time where
technology has taken off and young
people have embraced it in a way
that enables their relationships
and their socialising to occur
completely differently to how we
did it. We re outside looking in. We
need them to help us understand
this world," she said.
How the digital age had become
an intrinsic part of teenage lives
was evidenced by reactions to
Adelaide s recent earthquake.
One Adelaide mother said her
instant reaction was to head for the
street outside to see if others had
felt the quake, whereas her teenage
children instinctively headed for
their Facebook pages.
While adolescence has always
been a time of exploration, testing
April 30 - May 6, 2010
The Independent Weekly news
A new internet site is causing major
concern among educators and
parents of Adelaide teenagers,
with one expert describing it as
"opportunistic" and identifying it as
another cyberbullying vehicle.
Formspring.me, an open forum
which allows readers to post mes-
sages anonymously, is believed to
have been operating early last year.
Cyberbullying expert Dr Barbara
Spears said the site had increased
in popularity over the past three
months. It is believed computer
users are directed to the site via
popular social mediums, such as
While starting life as an innocuous
question and answer forum, it was
now being used by opportunistic
bullies to harass users anonymously.
"Like anything there are those who
want to use things in inappropriate
ways," Dr Spears said.
"The opportunistic out there will
take advantage of it and run with it."
The site ventured into new cyber
"Up until now things have been
able to be traced with ISP addresses
but with Formspring.me anyone can
log in and you don't know who the
message is from.
"That creates issues because
once it's out there it stays out there,"
Dr Spears said.
Adults usually hear about such
sites only after they have become
well-known to young people.
"Like any gossip or rumour mill,
the more people that know, the more
leaks there are. Once it becomes
really hot and everyone is using it
then it bubbles up to the surface and
the adults get to hear about it," Dr
She advises adults and young
people to address cyber issues
"Young people have to trust
adults, and they don't because
they're fearful that the technology
will be withdrawn or taken away. That
really should not be what it's about.
It should be about co-partnering and
working together," she said.
"Young people have to be advising
us. We need to have the young
people talking to us about what the
medium means to them."
Dr Spears said it was vital that
adults and young people educate
"This is a complex relationship
issue. We need to have mutual
respect," she said.
The head of Seymour College's
middle school, Rosie Lake, said
awareness that some students had
been visiting the site had prompted
the school to write to parents during
the recent school holidays.
"It has no levels of security. That
in itself is a problem. Our concerns
are far and wide," Ms Lake said.
She said the school hoped the
letter would prompt families to have
a conversation with their daughters
about internet use and levels of
security. The school had spoken to
its students about the site and the
girls had offered no resistance when
advised to dismiss it.
"The overwhelming response has
been that they are quite fine about
putting it aside," she said.
"They recognise it is not a good
Bullying by the
More than 18
pages are opened
day. Kate Nash
young lives can be
ruined by bullying
and racism on the
Anonymous insults sting from new internet site
Teenagers Matilda Elmes, 13, Milli Livingston, 15 and Chelsea Edwards, 14, are friends online and offline.
Photo: Kate Elmes
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